Online reading assignment: Milky Way history, big bang clues (NC campus)

Astronomy 210, spring semester 2018
Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA

Students have a weekly online reading assignment (hosted by SurveyMonkey.com), where they answer questions based on reading their textbook, material covered in previous lectures, opinion questions, and/or asking (anonymous) questions or making (anonymous) comments. Full credit is given for completing the online reading assignment before next week's lecture, regardless if whether their answers are correct/incorrect. Selected results/questions/comments are addressed by the instructor at the start of the following lecture.

The following questions were asked on reading textbook chapters and previewing presentations on the history of the Milky Way and big bang clues, a comic strip adaptation of of Neil deGrasse Tyson's "The Most Astounding Fact" 2008 interview for TIME magazine, and Minute Physics' video explanation of Olbers' paradox.

Selected/edited responses are given below.

Describe something you found interesting from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally interesting for you.
"How dirty space actually is."

"How metals were produced by a type II supernovas, because I never would have guessed that metals goes back that far."

"How we are able to detect metals in stars. Astronomy is just interesting all together."

"How our bodies originated from starstuff because you always see those Facebook posts that say that you are made from starstuff and never really understand them."

"That the halo of the Milky Way has older stars than the disk."

"Lookback time is very interesting because it’s so confusing, it's intriguing to think about."

"The big bang, because honestly, that seems to be the extent of knowledge that man kind can have, because its impossible to know what occurred before then. "

"The big bang, because it was the start of the universe and life itself. I find it interesting how at some point there was nothing and then spontaneously, there was something that started everything in the galaxy and there is no true answer as to how it all started."

Describe something you found confusing from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally confusing for you.
"How some stars are more metal-rich than others."

"Why older stars are metal-poor and newer ones are metal-rich."

"Let me get this straight, older stars (first generation) are metal-poor? I thought stars fuse hydrogen into heavier elements...so older ones would have more metal... I'm definitely confused."

"Why the sky is dark at night, because it the video that we watched did not seem to give a definite answer as to the reason actually why the night sky is dark, but reasons as to why the night sky isn't bright from other stars."

"Lookback time, because I didn't realize we are looking in the past at these other galaxies."

"The big bang is sort of confusing to me because I'm still not completely sure what it exactly was caused by or made up of and how it can create a massive universe."

"I don't understand how we can really gauge if there are edges on the universe. And would would be past the edge?"

"How the universe is always expanding."

"Again, the big bang, because the concept as a whole is mind boggling, there is a physical point that scientifically we can't go further back then. But the universe has always existed, what started it? Can nothingness condense into matter? It's weird."

Indicate how the amount of these elements in the universe have changed over time.
(Only correct responses shown.)
Hydrogen: decreased [56%]
Metals (elements heavier than hydrogen and helium): increased [69%]

The outermost layers of __________ are more abundant in metals (elements heavier than hydrogen and helium).
extremely old stars that formed a long time ago.  **** [4]
young stars that formed very recently.  ********** [10]
(There is a tie.)  [0]
(Neither, as stars cannot have metals.)  [0]
(Unsure/guessing/lost/help!)  ** [2]

Indicate what produced these elements.
(Only correct responses shown.)
Hydrogen in the sun's core: the very early universe [63%]
Helium in the sun's core: the sun [75%]
Carbon in your body: another star, in the past [63%]
Calcium in your bones: another star, in the past [50%]
Iron in your blood: another star, in the past [56%]
Gold and silver from mines: another star, in the past [50%]

Ask the instructor an anonymous question, or make a comment. Selected questions/comments may be discussed in class.
"Just need clarification on what elements of the sun and the universe produced."

"'It turns out that we have a time-machine of sorts to actually see the universe as it was in the past... This means that when we look at Deneb in the night sky tonight (season permitting), we are seeing Deneb not as it is now, but as it was in the past, 1,400 years ago.' I love this so much. This just rocks my world."

"I've been working on my research project since I got home and I AM SO PROUD OF MYSELF I feel like I finally understand galaxies. Well you're going to see my whole project Fri-yay and be like yeeeeaaah I KNEW those would be your results because I understand the greater meaning of life itself. Just kidding, you don't sound like that. ANYWAYS my conclusion is like 5 paragraphs because I keep making connections with all the other stuff we've learned like OF COURSE MOST SPIRAL GALAXIES ARE BLUE OR WHITE BECAUSE THEY ARE COMPRISED MOSTLY OF GAS AND DUST WHICH IS BREEDING GROUNDS FOR BABY STARS AND THERE ARE PRACTICALLY NO RED OR ORANGE ONES BECAUSE ELLIPTICAL GALAXIES ARE THE HOME FOR OLD FARTY STARS/GALAXIES. My research conclusion actually uses science terminology so don't worry I won't call them farty, but I know you'll know what I mean. ANYWAYS that's why I haven't done the reading for these chapters because I'm a poop and a procrastinator BUT I am making leaps on my research thingie-ma-bobbie. PS yes that is a technical term and I WILL be using it on my project board...I lied, it won't be on my board. I need sleep. Do you feel accomplished when students are finally able to connect work from one subject to another? Assuming your answer is yes because, well if you didn't you probably wouldn't care about our grades or us. WHICH I think you do. hopefully I pass this class and not just the dang lab."

"Why does the universe keep expanding does it ever stop growing?"

"What is your favorite topic to teach in astronomy?" (Pretty much this week's topics--our place in the universe and how we understand how we got here. But then there was everything else about the stars and the Milky Way that we need to learn just go get to this point in the semester. So pretty everything.)

"Is the class over after the final?" (Uh, yes? Well, hopefully not really, and you'll still be learning about astronomy even after the end of the semester.)

"Since I am doing well in the class... May an I get an 'A' for the class now, and not be required to take the final exam?" (You're so close--so if you can get there on your own before finals week, then yes, you wouldn't need more points from the Final Exam.)

"You must be happy that summer is approaching! (Yes. This is me looking forward to summer.)

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