May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Celestial Highlights for August 2014

Posted: Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

by Robert C. Victor with twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller

Mars and Saturn draw attention in the southwest evening sky, as they appear within 10° Aug. 8-Sept. 10, and within 5° Aug. 19-31. Viewed through a telescope this month, Saturn with its shadow cast upon its rings has a striking 3-dimensional appearance.

Some 45 minutes to an hour before sunrise, brilliant Venus low in east-northeast is accompanied by Jupiter, itself of considerable brightness, no more than 5° away Aug. 13-22. On Aug. 17, the two spectacular points of light are just 0.7° apart, and on Aug. 18, an even more impressive 0.4°.

Attractive gatherings of Moon with these planet pairs occur on August 23 at dawn, and on August 31 at dusk. Dark moonless evenings offer excellent views of the Milky Way, best Aug. 1-2 and 28-31 after moonset; Aug. 13-16 before moonrise; and Aug. 17-27.

August 2014 at dusk 

The five brightest objects in evening mid-twilight are: Arcturus and Vega, mag. 0.0; Mars (+0.4 to +0.6), Saturn (+0.5 to +0.6), and Altair (mag. +0.8).

Planets: Finally, we have our first mutual conjunction of naked-eye planets in the evening sky this year, as Mars passes 3.4° S of Saturn on Aug. 25, in SW sky. At dusk on Aug. 31 a thick crescent Moon forms a pretty gathering with Mars and Saturn, several hours after a daytime occultation of the ringed planet.

Stars: Arcturus, Spica, Antares, all in W half of sky, sink lower as month progresses. Summer Triangle of Vega, Altair, and Deneb, well up in E, ascends still higher.

The Moon in evening sky is found near Spica on Aug. 1 & 2; Mars on Aug. 2 and 3; Saturn on Aug. 3 and 4; Antares on Aug. 5; Spica on Aug. 29; Mars and Saturn on Aug. 31, forming a nice trio! See Sky Calendar for illustrations of these events.

Follow the Moon daily one to 1-1/4 hours after sunset August 1-11, and starting again on August 27 or 28, as a waxing crescent for the rest of the month.

On Tues. Aug. 5, Antares appears within 8° below the Moon, now nearly three-quarters full.

On Sunday, Aug. 10, with unobstructed views of the horizon, you can catch the Full “Supermoon” setting 15° south of west a few minutes before sunrise, and rising 12° south of east a few minutes before sunset. An hour after sunset, the Full Moon is 12° up in ESE.

On Monday, Aug. 11, the Moon rises within 40 minutes after sunset, and by one hour after sunset the Moon appears only 4° up and 9° south of east.

After Full, the waning Moon rises later each evening, but not quickly enough to prevent bright moonlight from diminishing the peak of the Perseid meteor shower on the night of Aug. 12-13. As an example, here are moonrise times for Palm Springs: Sun. Aug. 10 at 7:32 p.m. PDT; Mon. Aug. 11 at 8:16 p.m.; Tues. Aug. 12 at 8:57 p.m.; Wed. Aug. 13 at 9:37 p.m.; Thurs. Aug. 14 at 10:17 p.m.; Fri. Aug. 15 at 10:58 p.m. On Saturday, Aug. 16, the Moon, just over half illuminated and approaching Last Quarter phase, rises at 11:40 p.m.

Perseid meteors can be seen anywhere in the sky, but if the track of a Perseid meteor is extended backward, it will trace back to the radiant in Perseus, to lower left, or later in the night, below, the “W” of Cassiopeia. That’s the direction from which the stream of meteoroids (dust from Comet Swift-Tuttle) approaches Earth. On the evening of Tues. Aug. 12, as twilight ends from lat. 34° north some ten minutes after moonrise, the shower radiant is only 8° up in NNE. Meteors seen then won’t be plentiful, but any that are seen will be “Earth-grazers”, with long paths dipping into our atmosphere at a shallow angle. As twilight begins at 4:35 a.m. on Wednesday morning Aug. 13, the radiant is nearly 60 degrees up in NNE to NE. Meteors will be more plentiful, because our part of the Earth will be presented more broad side to the incoming stream. But this year the Moon will be high and bright, reducing the numbers seen.

Note on Wednesday evening, Aug. 13, there is a brief half-hour window of dark skies before moonrise, presenting another chance for seeing Earth-grazers, but not many, because Earth has moved out of the core of the Perseid stream.

In 2015, the Perseid meteor shower will be a grand spectacle, as New Moon will occur on August 14, only one day after peak.

August 2014 at dawn

Five brightest “stars”: Venus; Jupiter and Sirius, once they appear, in August’s second week; Vega and Capella.

Planets: A spectacular, close pairing of the two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter, will provide much enjoyment for morning twilight skywatchers in August. Try to catch emerging Jupiter on earliest possible date. Please see Sky Calendar for illustrations of these events . On Aug. 8, watch for Jupiter rising in ENE within 10° lower left of Venus and moving about 1° closer to it each day. By Aug. 13, the planets are only 5° apart. Look daily and enjoy the show! On Aug. 17, they’re 0.7° apart, and on August 18, the two bright planets will appear closest, within 0.4° apart! They’ll spread to just over 5° apart by Aug. 23, when a waning crescent Moon appears to their right, within 5° to 8° away.

Stars: As this month begins, we see the Summer Triangle in W to NW, and Fomalhaut in SSW to SW, sinking lower with each passing day. In the eastern sky, as August opens, we’re already seeing Capella, Aldebaran, and Orion’s Betelgeuse and Rigel as described in the opening lines of Robert Frost’s poem, The Star Splitter; and we’re also seeing Venus, and Pollux. Joining the spectacle in August’s second week are Jupiter, Procyon, and Sirius. On many long-ago August mornings, I enjoyed finding out by observation on which date I could first spot Procyon, the “before the Dog” announcer of Sirius, and then Sirius itself a few mornings later.

If you look at just the right time, from a place where mountains don’t block your view, you can see the Winter Triangle and Summer Triangle simultaneously, just after Sirius rises and before Altair sets. You can then observe 11 of the 16 stars of first magnitude or brighter ever visible from southern California, or 11 of the 15 ever visible from northern parts of the state.

See the Moon in morning near Aldebaran on Aug. 18; and Venus and Jupiter on Aug. 23, a brilliant gathering!

Seize opportunities this summer to enjoy the beauty of the sky!

Robert D. Miller, who provided the twilight charts, did graduate work in Planetarium Science and later astronomy and computer science at Michigan State University and remains active in research and public outreach in astronomy.

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

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, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.

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CSTA Annual Conference Early Bird Rates End July 14

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

Teachers engaged in workshop activity

Teachers engaging in hands-on learning during a workshop at the 2016 CSTA conference.

Don’t miss your chance to register at the early bird rate for the 2017 CSTA Conference – the early-bird rate closes July 14. Need ideas on how to secure funding for your participation? Visit our website for suggestions, a budget planning tool, and downloadable justification letter to share with your admin. Want to take advantage of the early rate – but know your district will pay eventually? Register online today and CSTA will reimburse you when we receive payment from your district/employer. (For more information on how that works contact Zi Stair in the office for details – 916-979-7004 or

New Information Now Available On-line:

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.

Goodbye Outgoing and Welcome Incoming CSTA Board Members

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Jill Grace

Jill Grace, CSTA President, 2017-2019

On July 1, 2017 five CSTA members concluded their service and four new board members joined the ranks of the CSTA Board of Directors. CSTA is so grateful for all the volunteer board of directors who contribute hours upon hours of time and energy to advance the work of the association. At the June 3 board meeting, CSTA was able to say goodbye to the outgoing board members and welcome the incoming members.

This new year also brings with it a new president for CSTA. As of July 1, 2017 Jill Grace is the president of the California Science Teachers Association. Jill is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, a former middle school science teacher, and is currently a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd where she works with California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative districts and charter networks in the San Diego area.

Outgoing Board Members

  • Laura Henriques (President-Elect: 2011 – 2013, President: 2013 – 2015, Past President: 2015 – 2017)
  • Valerie Joyner (Region 1 Director: 2009 – 2013, Primary Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Mary Whaley (Informal Science Education Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Sue Campbell (Middle School/Jr. High Director: 2015 – 2017)
  • Marcus Tessier (2-Year College Director: 2015 – 2017)

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.

Finding My Student’s Motivation of Learning Through Engineering Tasks

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Huda Ali Gubary and Susheela Nath

It’s 8:02 and the bell rings. My students’ walk in and pick up an entry ticket based on yesterday’s lesson and homework. My countdown starts for students to begin…3, 2, 1. Ten students are on task and diligently completing the work, twenty are off task with behaviors ranging from talking up a storm with their neighbors to silently staring off into space. This was the start of my classes, more often than not. My students rarely showed the enthusiasm for a class that I had eagerly prepared for. I spent so much time searching for ways to get my students excited about the concepts they were learning. I wanted them to feel a connection to the lessons and come into my class motivated about what they were going to learn next. I would ask myself how I could make my class memorable where the kids were in the driver’s seat of learning. Incorporating engineering made this possible. 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Updated Recommended Literature List

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled an addition of 285 award-winning titles to the Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list.

“The books our students read help broaden their perspectives, enhance their knowledge, and fire their imaginations,” Torlakson said. “The addition of these award-winning titles represents the state’s continued commitment to the interests and engagement of California’s young readers.”

The Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list is a collection of more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and adolescents. Reflecting contemporary and classic titles, including California authors, this online list provides an exciting range of literature that students should be reading at school and for pleasure. Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama to provide for a variety of tastes, interests, and abilities. 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:

Teaching Science in the Time of Alternative Facts – Why NGSS Can Help (somewhat)

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn

The father of one of my students gave me a book: In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown, Ph. D. He had heard that I was teaching Plate Tectonics and wanted me to consider another perspective. The book offered the idea that the evidence for plate tectonics could be better understood if we considered the idea that beneath the continent of Pangaea was a huge underground layer of water that suddenly burst forth from a rift between the now continents of Africa and South America. The waters shot up and the continents hydroplaned apart on the water layer to their current positions. The force of the movement pushed up great mountain ranges which are still settling to this day, resulting in earthquakes along the margins of continents. This had happened about 6,000 years ago and created a great worldwide flood. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.