January/February 2018 – Vol. 31 No. 2

California Skies for November and Early December 2011

Posted: Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

by Robert Victor

See brilliant evening planets Venus and Jupiter wide apart, and Mercury in a close pairing with Venus visible with binoculars in the first half of November. Early risers can enjoy two planet-star pairings (Mars-Regulus and Saturn-Spica) in November, and a total lunar eclipse on Saturday morning, December 10.

Evening Planets: In the middle of autumn 2011, Venus starts to become noticeable in evening twilight. Within one-half hour after sunset on Friday, October 28, look for Venus 11° lower right of a thin crescent moon low in southwest. Binoculars may show Mercury about 2° below or lower left of Venus until mid-November. After that, Mercury pulls away to the lower right of Venus and fades.

This November, whenever you spot Venus, remember to turn around to face Jupiter in the eastern sky. These two planets will remain the brightest “stars” in the evening sky until Jupiter disappears into the west-northwest evening twilight glow in late April 2012. (Venus will depart by the end of May.) In November 2011, Venus-Jupiter appear 150° apart on November 5, 135° apart on November 16, and 120° apart on November 27. Students and teachers will enjoy following these two brilliant planets as they progress toward their rendezvous just 3° apart on March 13, 2012.

Morning planets and bright stars: On Wednesday, November 9, about 1.5 hours before sunrise, look low in the west-northwest to find the nearly full moon with Jupiter 5° to its left. At the same time, the striking pair of reddish Mars and blue-white Regulus, just 1.5° apart, is high in east-southeast to southeast, and Saturn-Spica, 4.4° apart, have just risen in east to east-southeast. If you look after Saturn rises and before Jupiter sets, you’ll catch all three bright outer planets simultaneously!

Sirius, the brightest star, twinkles in south south-west, more than a third of the way from horizon to overhead. To its right, in the southwest, stands Orion, the Hunter. His prominent 3-star belt extended to the left locates the Dog Star Sirius. Extend Orion’s belt to the right to find Aldebaran and the Hyades star cluster, comprising the V-shaped head of Taurus, the Bull, and farther to the right, the Pleiades or Seven Sisters star cluster.

Follow the moon for the next two weeks as it moves through the zodiac constellations and passes the two other morning planets. On November 11, the moon appears below the Pleaides star cluster; on November 12, near Aldebaran and the Hyades; and on November 13, near the Bull’s horns.

On November 15 and 16, the moon passes widely south of Pollux and Castor, the Twins of Gemini. Those stars are 4.5° apart, and serve to help you compare the separations of Mars-Regulus and Saturn-Spica to the gap between those stars. Mars-Regulus appear closer together than the Twins during November 3-19, and within 1.4° apart in a very striking conjunction on November 10 and 11. Saturn-Spica appear within 4.5° during Nov. 4-24, and closest, 4.3° apart, on Nov. 14. That will be the closest of their three-times pairing in 2011-2012. At no time during their common apparition which ends in September 2012 will Saturn-Spica be more than 7.2° apart.

On November 18 and 19, the moon passes Regulus and Mars, and on November 22, the moon appears near Spica and Saturn. November 23 is the last easy old moon. Look for the thin waning crescent below Saturn and Spica one to 1.5 hours before sunrise.

The moon is new on Thanksgiving night, Thursday, November 24, at 10:10 p.m. PST, coinciding with a partial solar eclipse in the Antarctic. The first easy chance to see the young crescent after the new moon will be at dusk on Saturday, November 26. Half an hour after sunset, the thin crescent will be very low in the southwest, just three degrees to the lower right of Venus. On the next evening, Sunday, November 27, the lunar crescent appears 11° to the upper left of Venus. Note Jupiter shining brightly in the east. That evening these two brightest planets appear 120° apart in the skies of Earth.

Direct a telescope toward the moon and both planets to rediscover what Galileo observed four centuries ago: Mountains and craters on the moon, Jupiter accompanied by four satellites of its own, and Venus now in gibbous phase, 90% full, even though it appears close to a crescent moon in the sky on November 26 and 27. What can you deduce about Venus’ location in 3-D space in relation to the sun, Earth, and moon?

Continue following the moon each evening for two weeks after it passes Venus. On December 5 and 6, it will appear close to Jupiter. On Friday, December 9, the moon, nearly full, rises shortly before sunset. Lunar eclipse: Late that night, at 4:45 a.m. PST on Saturday morning December 10, the moon begins to enter the umbra, or dark central core of Earth’s shadow. By 5:21 a.m., the upper half of the moon’s diameter is in deep shadow. The moon is then sinking in west northwest, appearing against the background of Taurus, the Bull, above setting Aldebaran and the Hyades, and below the horns. By 6:06 a.m. the moon is completely immersed in the umbra, marking the beginning of total eclipse. Brightening twilight will make it difficult to observe the dim totally eclipsed moon, especially in southern California where sunrise and moonset occur earlier than for the rest of the state. Binoculars may help you keep the eclipsed moon in sight longer.

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs.


Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

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Accelerating into NGSS – A Statewide Rollout Series Now Accepting Registrations

Posted: Friday, January 19th, 2018

Are you feeling behind on the implementation of NGSS? Then Accelerating into NGSS – the Statewide Rollout event – is right for you!

If you have not experienced Phases 1-4 of the Statewide Rollout, or are feeling behind with the implementation of NGSS, the Accelerating Into NGSS Statewide Rollout will provide you with the greatest hits from Phases 1-4!

Accelerating Into NGSS Statewide Rollout is a two-day training geared toward grade K-12 academic coaches, administrators, curriculum leads, and teacher leaders. Check-in for the two-day rollout begins at 7:30 a.m., followed by a continental breakfast. Sessions run from 8:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. on Day One and from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Day Two.

Cost of training is $250 per attendee. Fee includes all materials, continental breakfast, and lunch on both days. It is recommended that districts send teams of four to six, which include at least one administrator. Payment can be made by check or credit card. If paying by check, registration is NOT complete until payment has been received. All payments must be received prior to the Rollout location date you are attending. Paying by credit card secures your seat at time of registration. No purchase orders accepted. No participant cancellation refunds.

For questions or more information, please contact Amy Kennedy at akennedy@sjcoe.net or (209) 468-9027.



MARCH 28-29, 2018
Host: San Mateo County Office of Education
Location: San Mateo County Office of Education, Redwood City

APRIL 10-11, 2018
Host: Orange County Office of Education
Location: Brandman University, Irvine

MAY 1-2, 2018
Host: Tulare County Office of Education
Location: Tulare County Office of Education, Visalia

MAY 3-4, 2018
Host: San Bernardino Superintendent of Schools
Location: West End Educational Service Center, Rancho Cucamonga

MAY 7-8, 2018
Host: Sacramento County Office of Education
Location: Sacramento County Office of Education Conference Center and David P. Meaney Education Center, Mather

JUNE 14-15, 2018
Host: Imperial County Office of Education
Location: Imperial Valley College, Imperial

Presented by the California Department of Education, California County Superintendents Educational Services Association/County Offices of Education, K-12 Alliance @WestEd, California Science Project, and the California Science Teachers Association.

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

The Teaching and Learning Collaborative, Reflections from an Administrator

Posted: Friday, January 19th, 2018

by Kelly Patchen

My name is Mrs. Kelly Patchen, and I am proud to be an elementary assistant principal working in the Tracy Unified School District (TUSD) at Louis Bohn and McKinley Elementary Schools. Each of the schools I support are Title I K-5 schools with about 450 students, a diverse student population, a high percentage of English Language Learners, and students living in poverty. We’re also lucky to be part of the CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative with the K-12 Alliance. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the California NGSS k-8 Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

2018 CSTA Conference Call for Proposals

Posted: Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

CSTA is pleased to announce that we are now accepting proposals for 90-minute workshops and three- and six-hour short courses for the 2018 California Science Education Conference. Workshops and short courses make up the bulk of the content and professional learning opportunities available at the conference. In recognition of their contribution, members who present a workshop or short course receive 50% off of their registration fees. Click for more information regarding proposals, or submit one today by following the links below.

Short Course Proposal

Workshop Proposal Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

CSTA’s New Administrator Facebook Group Page

Posted: Monday, January 15th, 2018

by Holly Steele

The California Science Teachers Association’s mission is to promote high-quality science education, and one of the best practice’s we use to fulfill that mission is through the use of our Facebook group pages. CSTA hosts several closed and moderated Facebook group pages for specific grade levels, (Elementary, Middle, and High School), pages for district coaches and science education faculty, and the official CSTA Facebook page. These pages serve as an online resource for teachers and coaches to exchange teaching methods, materials, staying update on science events in California and asking questions. CSTA is happy to announce the creation of a 6th group page called, California Administrators Supporting Science. Learn More…

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

Find Your Reason to Engage

Posted: Monday, January 15th, 2018

by Jill Grace

I was recently reflecting on events in the news and remembered that several years ago, National Public Radio had a story about a man named Stéphane Hessel, a World War II French resistance fighter, Nazi concentration camp survivor, and contributor to the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The story focused on a book he had published, Time for Outrage (2010).

In it, Hessel makes the argument that the worst attitude is indifference:

“Who is in charge; who are the decision makers? It’s not always easy to discern. We’re not dealing with a small elite anymore, whose actions we can clearly identify. We are dealing with a vast, interdependent world that is interconnected in unprecedented ways. But there are unbearable things all around us. You have to look for them; search carefully. Open your eyes and you will see. This is what I tell young people: If you spend a little time searching, you will find your reasons to engage. The worst attitude is indifference. ‘There’s nothing I can do; I get by’ – adopting this mindset will deprive you of one of the fundamental qualities of being human: outrage.  Our capacity for protest is indispensable, as is our freedom to engage.”

His words make me take pause when I think of the status of science in the United States. A general “mistrust” of science is increasingly pervasive, as outlined in a New Yorker article from the summer of 2016. Learn More…

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Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.