September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

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 Is Now Accepting Nominations for Board Members

Posted: Friday, November 17th, 2017

Current, incoming, and outgoing CSTA Board of Directors at June 3, 2017 meeting.

Updated 7:25 pm, Nov. 17, 2017

It’s that time of year when CSTA is looking for dedicated and qualified persons to fill the upcoming vacancies on its Board of Directors. This opportunity allows you to help shape the policy and determine the path that the Board will take in the new year. There are time and energy commitments, but that is far outweighed by the personal satisfaction of knowing that you are an integral part of an outstanding professional educational organization, dedicated to the support and guidance of California’s science teachers. You will also have the opportunity to help CSTA review and support legislation that benefits good science teaching and teachers.

Right now is an exciting time to be involved at the state level in the California Science Teachers Association. The CSTA Board of Directors is currently involved in implementing the Next Generations Science Standards and its strategic plan. If you are interested in serving on the CSTA Board of Directors, now is the time to submit your name for consideration. 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 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.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. 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.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

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

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.