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Meriken Jensen

Astronomy 9 am MWF
Conversation Paper
Professor Jonathan Barnes

While trying to decide how to go about this assignment the only logical thing I could
think of was to focus on one topic of astronomy and have those helping me focus on this
topic as well. Looking through my textbook and notes I chose to focus our conversation on
the solar system we live in, and asked that each of them brushed up and prepare to discuss
this small part of space we call home. The flow of the conversation went well, smoothly
moving through all the points I had chosen to focus on through the process of questions
and debating answers, lasting well over an hour. I believe those who I asked to help me
both enjoyed and learned from the time spent talking about outer space. A topic they all
agreed wasnt something they have talked about since they were little kids.
Our conversation was able to take place on the evening of October 10th and I invited
my three best friends to join me; Austin, Hanna, and Hunter. I picked these three because I
knew they would not hold back or be polite about things if they had strong feelings about
them because of the friendship we all share. I felt the best way to start was with basics,
what are the planet names? Of course they all three got this correct except they were
unsure of if Pluto counted as a planet since we learned about the planets before it was
removed from the list. When I informed them that there was a recent debate on the very
topic of Plutos planet status they decided we would let it be a planet. After all we learned
about it in Kindergarten and obviously it must be true if we learned it that long ago.

Before getting too far into the conversation I should probably warn you the group I
was with is highly competitive and must know all answers so they can know who was at
least most correct because everything is a competition. Because of the competitive nature
we quickly moved from quote Boring easy questions everyone knows to things they may
not know. For my own entertainment the next question I asked was a situation where all
the planets and the suns masses were added together, what percentage of the total mass
would belong to the sun? Hanna quickly and confidently shot out fifty! But of course we all
must have our word and the reply from Hunter was, if its was that big it would eat half the
planets! And Austin slightly more logically added that it couldnt be that large because
Jupiter was so large and could be close to twenty percent of the weight itself meaning the
other planets would consist of thirty percent total, which with Saturns size as well was just
totally ludicrous so obviously the sun is only thirty-five percent. After listening to the
banter back and forth of the three of them they finally asked me the real answer because
there was no way they would move on until someone was correct. The conversation that
followed my answer was even better though, they could not imagine the sun being 99.9%
of the mass. Hanna, trying to prove me wrong googled the question on her phone and low
and behold I was right and they were all disappointed.
Now to have some fun for myself I asked what the hottest planet was and why, the
answers were all different. Hanna again confidently said it would me Mercury because it is
the closest to the sun. Hunter who sometimes does not think at all, retorted that Mars is red
and closest so obviously that is the hottest. Eye rolling followed that comment, and Austin
sighed loudly, and proceeded to explain that Mars is farther than Earth from the Sun and
that Venus is actually the hottest planet because of greenhouse effect. I was a little

surprised to hear him know exactly which planet was and why, I was sure they would all
guess like Hanna. Explaining what the greenhouse effect is worked about as well as telling a
three year old how to do algebra, it went over both Hunter and Hannas heads and they still
dont understand it, even when I drew out a diagram for them.
Deciding it was time to try and go a little bit easier on the group I asked them what
two gasses make up most of the universe and created everything. My thought ended up
being completely incorrect, the question created a two sided debate with Hanna and Austin
both trying to convince Hunter that the two elements were Hydrogen and Nitrogen, while
she insisted that it was Nitrogen and Oxygen. Hydrogen was the main fight because those
who supported it believed you had to have the smallest element possible to make bigger
elements. Hunter on the other hand was sure it didnt matter because we need Oxygen to
breathe so obviously that is the one that had to help create everything. When I asked them
all why they said Nitrogen none of them had an answer even though they all said it was one
of them. When they finally chose to stop arguing about Hydrogen and Oxygen I was able to
explain that the elements where those two which were simplest and smallest, Hydrogen
and Helium, which got me the retort of why is helium supposedly disappearing if it is one of
the two most common in the universe. At the time I was unable to answer this question, but
as we learned in class as the semester continued I was able to let them know that this is
because the Helium is in stars. And the only real way for us to get more Helium from Space
onto Earth would be to be close to a Supernova that spits it out along with other elements,
which would also put us close enough to not be alive anymore.

This assignment brought out a new understanding of how little the general public
knows about astronomy and the universe around us, as well as showing me how much I am
learning in this class. When they asked a question I was unable to answer it made me
wonder and want to know the answer which made me feel more interested in the subject
as a whole. Overall I enjoyed the opportunity to plan and execute a final paper without it
being something I only use the internet to find answers for, but something to involve
myself and others in.