Online reading assignment: eclipses, history of astronomy (SLO campus)

Astronomy 210, fall 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 eclipses, and an preliminary overview of the history of astronomy.

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.
"Seeing the animation of the moon’s shadow pass over the Earth was so fascinating."

"I loved learning about solar and lunar eclipses, for whatever reason I always miss them. I was supposed to see the most recent one in Australia but happened to be on a plane! So they're kind of a huge phenomenon for me. Also can't wait for when I finally see one and get to say, 'I'm in the umbra/penumbra.'"

"I loved reading about the solar eclipses. That's always been an interesting topic to me, but I've never had the resources to research it. I found it personally interesting because I had some family members travel to see the August 2017 eclipse, and they said it was amazing!"

"I find a full solar eclipse to be very interesting because I've never been able to see a full one and it is something I've always wanted to do."

"Reading about the different types of eclipses was very interesting. I wasn't aware of where the sun and moon needed to be placed in order for a solar or lunar eclipse to occur."

"I found the different types of eclipses interesting because previously I had only known of a lunar or solar eclipse. Now I can determine if an eclipse is a partial total or annual eclipse."

"The simulation of the total solar eclipse from July 11, 1991. It was really cool to be able to see the shadow of the moon passing over Earth."

"The lunar and solar eclipses were interesting and it was cool to learn why there isn’t always a solar or lunar eclipse happening because of the precise timing involved."

"I found all the different ways people tried to explain what they were seeing in the sky very interesting."

"I think it's interesting to think about the first principles and how wildly inaccurate some of the predictions were about how things worked. It makes me think about how certain things that are generally accepted as true will be looked at in the future as complete nonsense."

"I found it interesting to learn about Copernicus and his contribution to astronomy and how it changed the way people looked at the earth. Before he presented his hypothesis astronomers believed in a geocentric universe, with earth at the center of it. This school of thought was also popular within the churches, so anyone that opposed this idea therefore also disagreed with the church. Copernicus being a religious man had an internal conflict; he loved his church but he realized that their geocentric model was wrong. He instead proposed a heliocentric universe, in which the sun is in the center. At first he was afraid to report his findings, with a fear of persecution. He eventually published the book but died before it went public."

"The most interesting thing I found was how every famous astronomer build on the work and understanding of the astronomer that came before. Starting with the great paradigm shift that Copernicus brought about, replacing the geocentric model with the heliocentric model of celestial movement."

"Galileo was persecuted and tried for his beliefs and findings with astronomy. I find this very interesting because this is something that wouldn't really happen today."

Describe something you found confusing from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally confusing for you.
"The difference between a solar or lunar eclipse is a bit confusing for me, and I would like some further clarification."

"When reading about solar eclipses I got confused. Can you clarify the difference between the umbra and the penumbra?"

"I still don't really understand why we don't get an eclipse every month."

"Why isn't there a solar eclipse at every new moon and a lunar eclipse at every full moon?"

"I found that knowing when either a solar or lunar eclipse is happening to be confusing."

"I personally was confused on the idea that not every full moon is a lunar eclipse, and not every new moon is a solar eclipse. How should we know how to tell them apart?"

"I first found the concept of retrograde motion confusing. This was largely due to the two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional concept. Once I visualized the idea in my mind I was able to see where the phenomenon originates."

"Why the planets move at different speeds and why the Earth moves more quick than the other planets around the sun. There was a diagram in the the textbook that attempted to explain it, but I got a bit more confused by it."

"I wasn't really confused by anything."

A friend of yours has a birthday on March 30. According to your starwheel, the sun would have been located in front of which zodiac sign on that date? (Ignore daylight saving time.)
Aries.  *** [3]
Taurus.  [0]
Gemini.  [1]
Cancer.  [0]
Leo.  ** [2]
Virgo.  ** [2]
Libra.  [0]
Scorpio.  [0]
Sagittarius.  [0]
Capricorn.  [0]
Aquarius.  * [1]
Pisces.  *********************** [23]
(Unsure/guessing/lost/help!)  *** [3]

I believe astrology is able to make accurate predictions about my future. (This is a follow-up question.)
Strongly disagree.  ***** [5]
Disagree.  ************* [13]
Neutral.  ************ [12]
Agree.  **** [4]
Strongly agree.  [1]

Briefly discuss what you know now (that you didn't know before) that may (or may not have) affected your earlier opinion regarding your belief/disbelief in astrology. (This is a follow-up question.)
"Because of precession, the star cycle is a whole month off from hundreds of years ago."

"I didn't believe before, and now I ask people if they take into account precession."

"The fact that precession shifted the astrological signs slowly over time, has caused them to be an entire month off. That's hilarious."

"I didn't know that I could be a different sign than a Leo, that was confusing but also really awesome also."

"I know now that I could potentially be a Leo which really throws me off considering I thought I was an Aries my whole life. My sister is really passionate about astronomy and I even went to psychics on these kind of things so I'm a little thrown off that all of that could have been inaccurate."

"Well, my whole life I thought I was a Libra and now you and my starwheel are telling me that I'm a VIRGO, so it's confusing. So now I don't know how much I believe because all these years I was reading (and believing) all the Libra stuff. Now it might be hard for me to read about Virgo's because I've been believing Libra personalities."

"The constellations do not align with the currently listed dates of the zodiac. I'm somewhat in the midst of an identity crisis."

"The fact that most astrology signs are about a month off is a little weird to think about."

"I now know that the astrology has been changed since it was originally used in the ancient past but it doesn't change my mind on celestial objects having an effect on my life."

"I know now that the astrological signs are not correctly calibrated for procession and therefore if the science has any validity must be aligned with scientific knowns."

"I have even less belief in astrology know just because I know now that most people who follow astrology are using the scientifically incorrect signs for each month."

"It isn't a science! It's a bunch of keywords people can relate to."

"I began to look up a number of horoscopes that pertained to my sign and to others. Each one I viewed was very generalized and normally could somehow apply to my life in some way at the very least. They are designed this way in order to make them feel accurate. Now I feel stronger in my belief that astrology has no influence on anyone's life whatsoever."

"I don't believe that stars are able to tell me about my future and how my weeks is going to go. If there are 12 astrological signs where someone writes a prediction for each sign, there is no possible way it is going to be an accurate prediction for 100 million people that share that sign. Everyone lives different lives, are at different places in their lives, it doesn't make sense."

"I pretty much new the basic idea of what astrology was before the lecture and my opinion is the same, I'm neutral on it."

"Before I was in the middle about astrology. I felt that astrology could help people understand who they are as people. After learning about earth precession and how this affects what we see in the night sky. I don't even believe that any more. I did not know that our zodiac signs are slowly changing. How can someone predicted the future on with a sky that slowly changes?"

"Something that I know now that I wasn't aware of before is that astrology is a big thing in India and people take it very seriously there because a lot of it ties to religious beliefs in the Hindu religion."

"I did not know that the astrology signs have changed over time. This still did not really affect my strong belief in astrology, but it definitely was surprising for me."

Match the phase of the moon during these eclipse types. (Only correct responses shown.)
Total solar eclipse: new moon [69%]
Partial solar eclipse: new moon [54%]
Annular solar eclipse: new moon [57%]
Total lunar eclipse: full moon [74%]
Partial lunar eclipse: full moon [54%]

Place these astronomers in chronological order of their historical contribution to astronomy. (Only correct responses shown.)
Aristotle [86%]
Ptolemy [71%]
Copernicus [71%]
Tycho [60%]
Kepler [54%]
Galileo [51%]
Newton [71%]

Match these terms with their descriptions. (Only correct responses shown.)
Ideas accepted as truth without further examination: first principles [74%]
Predictions that could be tested by observations: hypotheses [94%]
Universal statements of cause and effect: rational laws [71%]
Describe phenomena without explaining why it occurs: empirical laws [63%]

Ask the instructor an anonymous question, or make a comment. Selected questions/comments may be discussed in class.
"How many eclipses have you seen in person?" (I've seen a handful of lunar eclipses and partial solar eclipses, but only one total solar eclipse. Hopefully one day I can take Mrs. P-dog to see her first total solar eclipse.)

"What's your least favorite topic to teach in astronomy?" (Actually, all of the topics that I've left out of this course.)

"How long does it usually take to grade the quizzes and post the results?" (I aim for entering and posting the quiz scores within 48 hours online.)

"How is Ptolemy be consider one of the great astronomers if he was to fundamentally wrong about the geocentric model?" (While his model of planetary motion wasn't correct, it was notably the first model that would reproduce what was seeing in the sky, and could make predictions of future motions. It was a good start to the development of the scientific process.)

"How many points are the reading assignments? And if we do bad on them will it hurt our grade? Or what if we miss one for some reason." (Each weekly online reading assignment is 8 points (for a total of 100 points), and they are graded for completion, not correctness, so as long as you try your best to answer all of the questions you'll get full credit. There are deliberately slightly too many reading assignments in a semester, so if you miss a few, but do all the rest, you should get all or nearly all of the total points possible.)

"I thought of a question while looking at the full moon on Sunday night. Because a moon cycle is about 28 days and there are eight phases in each cycle, that means that each phase takes about 3.5 days. Does that mean that the full moon lasts a few days?" (Officially yes, but it wouldn't look completely full as it gradually turns into the next official phase--the waning gibbous moon. Some cultures actually have 28 labels for each night of a "moonth"--in Hawaiian, the three "full moon" nights are Akua, Hoku, and Māhealani.)

"Can you please specify which one of the early astronomers above were mover or disprovers?" (That's your job. However, we'll discuss some guidance on how to sort the astronomers in terms of being movers or disprovers.)

"I was just telling a friend I had P-dog for astronomy and she said you were one of her favorite teachers when she went to Cuesta."

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