January/February 2018 – Vol. 31 No. 2

Celestial Highlights for December 2014

Posted: Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller

Near the start of December each year, the first magnitude star Aldebaran, eye of Taurus, the Bull and “follower” of the Pleiades or Seven Sisters, is visible all night as Earth makes its annual passage between Aldebaran and the Sun. Look for Aldebaran low in ENE at dusk, high in south in middle of night, and low in WNW at dawn.

On New Year’s Eve, the brightest star, Sirius, the Dog Star, reaches its high point in the south in the middle of the night, 6° higher and almost exactly 12 hours after the Sun reaches its midday perch. You can observe Sirius for much of the night, but not at dusk or dawn, because the star’s path from rising to setting is too far south and too short to keep it above the horizon through the long winter night. Some 21-22 minutes earlier and 36° below where Sirius reaches its highest, observers in southern California can try for Canopus, second brightest star visible in the nighttime skies of Earth. From Los Angeles and Palm Springs, it’s only 3°-4° up.

Four brightest “stars” at dusk: Venus (after it emerges around midmonth) mag. –3.9; Mercury (near month’s end) –0.8; Vega 0.0, Capella +0.1.

Planets: Watch for slow emergence of Venus from beyond Sun, followed by Mercury closing to 3° lower right of Venus at month’s end, in SW to WSW. Binoculars help spot Mercury very low in bright twilight by closing days of December. On Jan. 10 Mercury will approach to just 0.6° lower right of Venus! Mars (+1.0 to 1.1) is in SSW to SW all of December, to upper left of Venus.

Stars: The Summer Triangle of Vega, Altair, and Deneb is high in W, still well up at dusk as winter arrives. Fomalhaut, mouth of the Southern Fish, crosses south. Capella is in NE, Aldebaran is in ENE, both moving to upper right as month progresses. Appearing above eastern horizon late in month are Orion’s Betelgeuse and Rigel, and Gemini’s Pollux (with fainter Castor above it, not plotted).

Moon near bright objects at dusk: Full Moon appears closely upper right of Aldebaran at dusk on Dec. 5 (passing it overnight), and widely lower left of that star on the next evening. On Dec. 22 about 30 min. after sunset, Venus appears about 6° S (lower left) of the young crescent Moon. On the next evening, look for Venus about 11° to Moon’s lower right. On Dec. 24, look for Mars 6°-7° S (lower left) of Moon. On Dec. 5, Mars appears about 11° to Moon’s lower right. From Jan. 1 to Jan. 2, 2015, the waxing gibbous Moon will “leapfrog” past Aldebaran.

December 2014 at dawn:

Five brightest “stars”: Jupiter (mag. –2.3 to –2.4); Sirius (–1.4), Arcturus (mag. –0.1), Vega (0.0), Capella (+0.1).

Planets: Jupiter high in SW sky; Saturn (mag. +0.5) ascending in ESE to SE.

Stars: All the stars of the huge Winter Hexagon except Rigel are visible in the western morning sky at the start of December. As the month progresses, two more of its stars, Aldebaran and Sirius, drop out, as well as Betelgeuse within the Hexagon. The trailing side of the Hexagon, forming the arch of Procyon, Pollux (and Castor, not shown) and Capella remains in view throughout December. Jupiter and Regulus close in tow follow the descending arch into the western sky. In the eastern sky, Arcturus dominates, with Vega and Deneb far to its lower left, and Spica to its lower right. Find Saturn to Spica’s lower left, and, late in month, Antares below and a little left of Saturn.

Moon near bright objects at dawn: The Full Moon appears closely upper left of Aldebaran low in WNW at dawn on Dec. 6. A waning gibbous Moon appears between Procyon and Pollux on Dec. 9; near Jupiter on Dec. 11 and 12; near Regulus on Dec. 12. A waning crescent Moon appears near Spica on Dec. 16 and 17; closely upper right of Saturn on Dec. 19; to lower left of Saturn and upper left of Antares on Dec. 20.


Abrams Planetarium A 1-year subscription to the Abrams Sky Calendar consists of 4 quarterly mailings of three calendars each. The quarters begin with February, May, August, and November issues. Cost: $11. http://www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/SkyCalendar/Index.html

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.

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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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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California Science Test Academy for Educators

Posted: Thursday, February 15th, 2018

California Science Test Academy for Educators

To support implementation of the California Science Test (CAST), the California Department of Education is partnering with Educational Testing Service and WestEd to offer a one-day CAST Academy for local educational agency (LEA) science educators, to be presented at three locations in California from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. As an alternative to traveling, LEA teams can participate virtually via WebEx on one of the dates listed below.

The dates and locations for the CAST Academy are as follows:

  • Monday, April 23, 2018—Sacramento
  • Wednesday, April 25, 2018—Fresno
  • Thursday, April 26, 2018—Irvine

The CAST Academy will help participants develop a deeper understanding of the assessment design and expectations of the CAST. The academy also will provide information and activities designed to assist educators in their implementation of the California Next Generation Science Standards and three-dimensional learning to help them gain an understanding of how these new science assessment item types can inform teaching and learning. The CAST Academy dates above are intended for school and district science instructional leaders, including teacher leaders, teacher trainers, and instructional coaches. Additional trainings will be offered at a later date specifically for county staff. In addition, curriculum, professional development, and assessment leaders would benefit from this training.

A $100 registration fee will be charged for each person attending the in-person training. Each virtual team participating via WebEx will be charged $100 for up to 10 participants through one access point. Each workshop will have the capacity to accommodate a maximum of 50 virtual teams. Each virtual team will need to designate a lead, who is responsible for organizing the group locally. Registration and payment must be completed online at http://www.cvent.com/d/6tqg8k.

For more information regarding the CAST Academy, please contact Elizabeth Dilke, Program Coordinator, Educational Testing Service, by phone at 916-403-2407 or by e‑mail at caasppworkshops@ets.org.

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.

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.