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: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017
The pre-publication version of the new California Science Curriculum Framework is now available for download. This publication incorporates all the edits that were approved by the State Board of Education in November 2016 and was many months in the making. Our sincere thanks to the dozens of CSTA members were involved in its development. Our appreciation is also extended to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and their staff for their hard work and dedication to produce this document and for their commitment to the public input process. To the many writers and contributors to the Framework CSTA thanks you for your many hours of work to produce a world-class document.
For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.
The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
The 2017 Award Season is now open! One of the benefits of being a CSTA member is your eligibility for awards as well as your eligibility to nominate someone for an award. CSTA offers several awards and members may nominate individuals and organizations for the Future Science Teacher Award, the prestigious Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, and the CSTA Distinguished Contributions Award (organizational award). May 9, 2017 is the deadline for nominations for these awards. CSTA believes that the importance of science education cannot be overstated. Given the essential presence of the sciences in understanding the past and planning for the future, science education remains, and will increasingly be one of the most important disciplines in education. CSTA is committed to recognizing and encouraging excellence in science teaching through the presentation of awards to science educators and organizations who have made outstanding contributions in science education in the state and who are poised to continue the momentum of providing high quality, relevant science education into the future. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
CSTA is now accepting applications from regular, preservice, and retired members to serve on our volunteer committees! CSTA’s all-volunteer board of directors invites you to consider maximizing your member experience by volunteering for CSTA. CSTA committee service offers you the opportunity to share your expertise, learn a new skill, or do something you love to do but never have the opportunity to do in your regular day. CSTA committee volunteers do some pretty amazing things: Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Marian Murphy-Shaw
If you attended an NGSS Rollout phase 1-3 or CDE workshops at CSTA’s annual conference you may recall hearing from Chris Breazeale when he was working with the CDE. Chris has relocated professionally, with his passion for science education, and is now the Executive Director at the Explorit Science Center, a hands-on exploration museum featuring interactive STEM exhibits located at the beautiful Mace Ranch, 3141 5th St. in Davis, CA. Visitors can “think it, try it, and explorit” with a variety of displays that allow visitors to “do science.” To preview the museum, or schedule a classroom visit, see www.explorit.org. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Joseph Calmer
Probably like you, NGSS has been at the forefront of many department meetings, lunch conversations, and solitary lesson planning sessions. Despite reading the original NRC Framework, the Ca Draft Frameworks, and many CSTA writings, I am still left with the question: “what does it actually mean for my classroom?”
I had an eye-opening experience that helped me with that question. It came out of a conversation that I had with a student teacher. It turns out that I’ve found the secret to learning how to teach with NGSS: I need to engage in dialogue about teaching with novice teachers. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching science in some capacity for 12 years. During that time pedagogy and student learning become sort of a “hidden curriculum.” It is difficult to plan a lesson for the hidden curriculum; the best way is to just have two or more professionals talk and see what emerges. I was surprised it took me so long to realize this epiphany. Learn More…