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.
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.
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.
Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016
by Jessica Sawko
In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.
At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/ai/infomeeting.asp.) Learn More…
Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
by Carol Peterson
1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. https://www.engadget.com/2016/08/25/google-offers-360-degree-tours-of-us-national-parks/. Learn More…
Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!
Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award
The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
by Peter A’hearn
NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?
The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt
Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. Learn More…