Celestial Highlights for July 2013
Posted: Monday, July 1st, 2013
by Robert Victor and Robert D. Miller
At dusk: In July 2013, the brilliant evening “star” Venus gleams low in evening twilight, drifting from WNW to W as month progresses.
On our evening all-sky chart, planets are plotted for each day when the Sun has sunk to 9° below the horizon, at “mid-twilight”. By then, the two naked-eye planets and eight stars of first magnitude or brighter are easily visible, except for Pollux and Regulus sinking in the twilight glow. In July, from Palm Springs, Los Angeles, and other places near latitude 34° N, mid-twilight occurs about 45 minutes after sunset. From northernmost California in July, it takes six minutes longer for the sky to fade to the same level.
Planet positions are represented by a separate dot for each date, with positions for each Monday in July (1, 8, 15, 22, 29) represented by a larger dot and labeled. We find Venus and Regulus in the western sky this month. Rotate the chart until the portion of the horizon circle nearest the pair is at bottom, and you’ll see planet and star depicted at the same orientation as they appear in the W to WNW sky: Regulus 25° upper left of Venus on July 1, to 12° lower right of Venus on July 31.
On the chart, the stars’ daily positions are plotted not as individual dots, but instead by continuous tracks as the stars drift west (counter-clockwise around the North Star) in the course of the month, owing to the Earth’s revolution around the Sun.
Another planet is present on July evenings: Saturn, tracking from S to SW in mid-twilight as July progresses. Notice the first-magnitude star Spica 12° to the west (lower right) of brighter Saturn all month, the blue-white twinkling star preceding the steady yellowish planet as both objects go westward across the sky.
The brightest star in July’s evening sky is Arcturus, high in SSW to WSW, above Saturn and Spica and forming a large triangle with them. When the Big Dipper becomes visible, you can “follow the arc (of the handle) to Arcturus and drive a spike to Spica.”
Next after Arcturus in brilliance is Vega, climbing high in ENE. Compare the contrasting colors of these two stars! To Vega’s lower left is Deneb, and to their lower right is Altair, completing the Summer Triangle. Climbing in SSE to S is reddish Antares, heart of the Scorpion.
Binoculars may help you spot Pollux early in month, 13° lower right of Venus on July 1. Within a few days, Pollux vanishes into the solar glare.
Find Regulus, heart of Leo, the Lion, within 5° of Venus during July 18-25. They appear closest on the evenings of July 22 (1.2° apart), and July 23 (1.3°). Sinking lower nightly, Regulus will pass on the far side of the Sun on August 22.
During July 10-23, the Moon is above the horizon in evening mid-twilight. Follow it nightly as it waxes, or grows, from a thin crescent on July 10, through First Quarter (half full) on July 15, to Full on July 22. The Moon passes, in order, Venus on July 10th, Regulus on the 11th, Spica on the 15th, Saturn on the 16th, and Antares on the night of July 18th.
This selection of diagrams from the Abrams Planetarium Sky Calendar illustrates the Moon’s changing position against background stars in July, and the changing arrangements of Venus-Regulus at dusk and Mars-Jupiter-Mercury at dawn. For information on subscribing to Sky Calendar, visit www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/SkyCalendar/.
Dawn: Our all-sky chart for morning mid-twilight depicts the sky about 45 minutes before sunrise in southern California. The Summer Triangle of Vega-Deneb-Altair is high in the western sky at dawn, and lower as month progresses. During all of July, the Summer Triangle is up all night.
Bright Jupiter emerges by end of first week, low in ENE to lower left of faint mag. +1.6 Mars. To their upper left, find bright Capella, the “Mother Goat” star, in NE, higher as month progresses. To upper right of Jupiter is reddish Aldebaran, eye of Taurus the Bull, with the compact Pleiades star cluster or Seven Sisters (not shown), 14° higher. Fomalhaut, mouth of the Southern Fish, drifts from S to SSW. By July’s fourth week, Betelgeuse and Rigel, shoulder and foot of Orion, the Hunter, rise from the dawn glow into the eastern sky. (Orion’s belt, a nearly vertical line of three stars midway between them, isn’t plotted.) Farther north and lower is Pollux, with Castor, the other Gemini Twin, not plotted, 4½° above.
Faint reddish Mars and bright yellowish Jupiter appear no more than 5° apart July 11-August 1, and as close as 0.8° apart on July 22. By July 25 Mercury has emerged as a first-magnitude “star” to their lower left, and brightening to mag. 0 by month’s end.
The waning crescent Moon in the morning sky passes near the Pleiades star cluster on July 4 and 31, near Aldebaran on July 5 and August 1, near Mars and Jupiter on July 6 and August 3-4, and near Mercury on August 5.
Robert D. Miller 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…