January/February 2018 – Vol. 31 No. 2

Celestial Highlights for February 2014

Posted: Monday, February 3rd, 2014

by Robert Victor and Robert D. Miller

February Skies: Jupiter and the Dog Star dominate the dusk. Brightening Mars gleams from late evening until dawn, when Venus takes the reigns.

February 2014 at dusk:

The two brightest “stars” at dusk in February are steady yellowish Jupiter, high in east, and blue-white vigorously twinkling Sirius, the Dog Star, in the southeast. The only other evening planet is Mercury, very low south of west, but it fades to first magnitude by Feb. 7 and very sharply thereafter, on its way to conjunction with the Sun at mid-month. The waxing gibbous Moon, four days before Full, appears near Jupiter on the evening of Feb. 10.

Surrounding Jupiter is the huge Winter Hexagon of Sirius-Procyon-Pollux-Capella-Aldebaran-Rigel. The noticeably red star Betelgeuse is also within the Hexagon. Find the 3-star belt of Orion, the Hunter, midway between his shoulder, Betelgeuse, and his foot, bluish Rigel. The belt extended southeastward locates Sirius. Extend the belt in the opposite direction, bending north a bit, and you’ll find Aldebaran, eye of Taurus, the Bull. Go farther to find the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters, a wonderful sight for binoculars! Rising in the eastern sky, Regulus, heart of Leo, is at opposition to the Sun on Feb. 18, and chases the Winter Hexagon across the sky.

February 2014 at dawn:

This month, Venus attains the peak brilliance of its current morning apparition, which began in mid-January and continues until September. Telescopes and even binoculars reveal Venus as a crescent, backlit by the Sun. Find Venus before sunrise, keep track of it, and you’ll have a daytime sighting! It’ll be especially easy on Feb. 25 and 26, when the crescent Moon appears nearby.

For most of February, in morning twilight, you can observe three planets: Venus in SE, Saturn in S, and Mars in SW. In the last days of Feb., there are four planets once Mercury emerges from its Feb. 15 solar conjunction on near side of Sun into the ESE twilight glow. Backlighted Mercury is faint at first, 2nd mag. on Feb. 23, brightening to first mag. by Feb. 27 and continuing to brighten in March. Look for these bright stars, also within the zodiacal belt: Antares, heart of Scorpius, to upper right of Venus and lower left of Saturn; Spica near Mars; and Regulus, heart of Leo, in W, far to lower right of Mars and Spica. In latter half of February, the waning Moon in the morning sky will pass all of them, in order, west to east: Regulus, Spica, Mars, Saturn, Antares, Venus, and Mercury. (See diagrams from Sky Calendar.)

Other bright stars at dawn are Arcturus, high above Mars and Spica in the SW sky; and the Summer Triangle of Vega-Altair-Deneb climbing in the eastern sky. Brightest objects visible at morning mid-twilight at start of Feb., in order of brilliance, are Venus, Arcturus, Vega, and Mars. The red planet nearly doubles in brightness from mag. +0.2 to –0.5 and clearly outshines the zero-mag. stars Arcturus and Vega after mid-Feb.

On Feb. 11 the revolution of Spaceship Earth around the Sun is carrying us toward Saturn. A week later on Feb. 18, Earth passes between Sun and Regulus, and that star appears at opposition, 180° from the Sun. On Feb. 28, Earth is heading toward a point near Antares in the predawn sky (and away from a point near Aldebaran in the evening sky). On April 8, Mars will take its turn at opposition as our planet passes between that planet and the Sun. On May 10, Saturn will appear at opposition, and within three weeks later, on May 30-31, Antares will be at opposition and be above the horizon nearly all night.

Sky events in February and early March 2014 and beyond

Don’t miss the chance to provide your students with impressive telescopic views of Venus, while it still appears in crescent phase. Venus will appear half full, but smaller in size, when it is near greatest elongation, 47° from Sun, in late March. Venus switched from the evening into the morning sky during the second week of January, as it passed inferior conjunction, nearly between Earth and Sun. Venus is bright enough to observe in daytime morning hours while you’re at school. The planet appears brightest in mid-February, when telescopes and even binoculars reveal it as a crescent, about one-fourth illuminated.

The three bright outer planets all glide from dawn to dusk visibility during the early months of 2014, as the Earth overtakes them. During the transition, the planet appears at opposition, about 180° from the Sun, and is visible all night: Low in eastern sky at dusk, high in the southern sky in the middle of the night, and low in the western sky at dawn. This year, the dates of opposition of the bright outer planets are: Jupiter on Jan. 5, Mars on Apr. 8, and Saturn on May 10.

Don’t miss the total lunar eclipse on the night of Monday-Tuesday, April 14-15.

Mercury will have its best evening apparition of this year during May.

Following is a sample of the visually most striking sky events during February and early March 2014. Diagrams of these events appear on the Sky Calendar, published by Abrams Planetarium at Michigan State University. For more information about the calendar, point your web browser to www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/skycalendar/

Before the end of April, a complete Sky Calendar for May 2014, along with a star map of the evening sky, will be available at the same website. May 2014 will be a great month for sky watchers, because the three bright outer planets as well as the innermost planet, Mercury, will all be visible at dusk. There is a good chance of a very strong meteor shower, possibly even a meteor storm, in the predawn hours of Saturday, May 24, during the Memorial holiday weekend.

For free, simplified monthly sky maps following the first-magnitude stars and the naked-eye planets at morning and evening twilight accompanied by descriptive notes, and for many other charts and activities for students, go to www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/msta/

Check that site now and then for additional postings.

For illustrations of the following events, refer to diagrams in this article, and to the February and March 2014 issues of Sky Calendar.

Feb. 6-8, one hour after sunset: Watch Moon pass Aldebaran, Hyades, Pleiades.

Feb. 10 & 11, one hour after sunset: Watch Moon pass Jupiter, Pollux, Castor.

Feb. 19 & 20, one hour before sunrise: Watch Moon pass Mars, Spica.

Feb. 21-23, one hour before sunrise: Watch Moon pass Saturn and Antares.

Feb. 25-27, 45 min. before sunrise: Watch Moon pass Venus and approach Mercury.

Feb. 28, 30 min. before sunrise: Watch for very thin Moon rising to lower left of Mercury. Binoculars help. If you spot the Moon, note the time and calculate how much time remains until New Moon at the start of March 1 at 12:00 a.m. PST.

Mar. 1, one hour before sunrise: Find Mars and Spica in SW. Mars passed near Spica on Feb. 3. Watch Mars retrograde past Spica in coming weeks, and pass it a third time in July. The event is an example of a triple conjunction.

Mar. 1, about 25 min. after sunset: Using binoculars, try to see a very thin, young crescent Moon, very low, just south of due west. If you spot it, note the time, and calculate the Moon’s age, or time elapsed since New Moon, which occurred at 12:00 a.m. PST earlier today.

Mar. 3, one hour before sunrise: Saturn begins retrograde to upper right of Antares and to east (left) of Alpha in Libra. Watch Saturn move 7° west (closer to Alpha Librae) from now until mid-July, when Saturn ends retrograde.

Mar. 4, about 45 min. before sunrise: Mercury 20° lower left of Venus.

Wishing you and your students clear skies!

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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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!

WHO SHOULD ATTEND
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!

OVERVIEW
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.

REGISTER

http://bit.ly/ACCELERATINGINTONGSS

DATES & LOCATIONS
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.