January/February 2018 – Vol. 31 No. 2

Celestial Highlights for July 2014

Posted: Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

by Robert C. Victor with twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller

In early June, after attending a reunion for Classes of 1961-64 at Stony Brook University, I remained a few days and had the pleasure of participating in a Summer Institute at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science. The following blog about a previous Alda Institute gives the flavor of what occurred and includes some valuable tips to help scientists (and teachers) “distill their messages” to better communicate to the public and the media (and students).


Following this article on July skies is a selection of some of my favorite astronomy-related web resources.

Mars and Saturn are easy to spot in the evening sky for all of July, and Saturn with its rings is a real showpiece for telescopic viewing. Mars will form a close, eye-catching pair with the star Spica for several evenings around July 13. In the brightening dawn for much of month, brilliant Venus has a companion, Mercury, not far to its lower left. Especially attractive gatherings of Moon, planets, and stars occur on July 5 and 7 at dusk, and on July 22 and 24 at dawn. Dark moonless nights in latter half of month offer excellent views of the Milky Way.

July 2014 at dusk

The four brightest starlike objects visible at dusk (excluding Jupiter barely above WNW horizon at start of month)are: Arcturus and Vega (both near mag. 0.0); Mars (0.0 to +0.4); and Saturn (+0.4 to +0.5).

July’s evening planets: Using binoculars, can you spot Jupiter very low in bright twilight in WNW at start of month, before it departs? Reddish Mars in SW passes 1.3° N of blue-white Spica on July 13 in the tightest and last of their three pairings this year. It will be fascinating to follow this colorful pair for several evenings, separated by no more than 5° during July 3-22. Saturn is in S to SSW, 23° to upper left of the close Mars-Saturn pair on July 13.

Saturn’s rings are tipped 21° from edge-on during July (minimum for this year). This temporary decrease on the way toward 27° maximum in 2017 is caused by our Earth-platform revolving around the Sun, affecting our view.

In late July and early August, when Saturn is close to 90 degrees from the Sun, telescopes show the best “3-D” appearance of planet and rings, because we can then best observe the planet’s shadow cast upon the rings. Look for a “gap” where the shadowed portion of the rings goes behind the planet’s northeast limb.

Stars: Regulus, heart of Leo, sinks nearly to WNW horizon at month’s end. Golden Arcturus is high in S to WSW; Spica, spike of grain in Virgo’s hand, is in SW, near Mars; Antares, heart of Scorpius, reaches its high point low in S. The Summer Triangle of Vega-Altair-Deneb ascends in E, as befits its name. It’s up all night this month. Find it plotted on both our charts, for dusk and dawn.

Follow the waxing Moon in the evening sky as it passes near these planets and bright zodiacal stars: Regulus on July 1; Mars and Spica on July 5 (a spectacular trio!); Saturn on July 7 (close); Antares on July 8 and 9; Spica on Aug. 1 and 2; Mars on Aug. 2 and 3; Saturn on Aug. 3 and 4; Antares on Aug. 5.

For evening planet-watchers this summer: Mars goes from west to east of Spica this month. On July 1st, Mars is just over 5° NW of Spica. On July 5th, the Moon, just past First Quarter phase and a little over half illuminated, will pass between Mars and Spica while they’re within 4° apart. In a colorful patriotic pairing on July 13th, the red planet will pass just 1.3° north of the blue-white star. Mars continues east against the background, ending 14° east of Spica on July 31st. In the next two months, Mars will pass 3.4° south of yellowish Saturn on Aug. 25; Moon, Mars, and Saturn will appear within a 5° field on the evening of Aug. 31; and Mars will pass just over 3° north of reddish Antares on Sept. 28.

July 2014 at dawn 

Five brightest objects: Venus; Mercury (after it brightens past mag. 0 at midmonth); Vega, Capella, Rigel (after it appears late in month).

Planets (both in ENE): Venus, shining nearly at mag. –4, dominates morning sky. Mercury is easy to find, especially when it’s within 7° lower left of Venus July 12-20.

Stars: The Summer Triangle of Vega-Altair-Deneb, visible all night in all of July, is high in the western sky at dawn and descends as month progresses. Fomalhaut, Mouth of the Southern Fish, swims westward low in the south. Aldebaran, eye of Taurus, is just 4° S (lower right) of Venus on July 1 and ascends the eastern sky all month as Venus remains low. Far to upper left, the “Mother Goat” star Capella ascends in the NE. Late in month, Betelgeuse and Rigel, shoulder and foot of Orion, emerge above the eastern horizon. (Look midway between them at an earlier stage of twilight for a vertical line of three stars, Orion’s belt!) Farther north, find Pollux (with Castor 4.5° above). Pollux is just over 6° N (upper left) of Mercury on July 28 and 29.

The waning crescent Moon in morning sky passes near: Aldebaran on July 22 (close); Venus on July 24; Mercury on July 25 (low in twilight).

Many beautiful sights await you this summer, in both morning and evening skies. Mark Monday, August 18 on your calendar. Be sure to look about an hour before sunrise that morning to catch the spectacular close pairing of the two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter. Five days later, on August 23, the waning crescent Moon joins them in a beautiful gathering. For evening events, see “For evening planet-watchers,” above. The July through September issues of the Abrams Planetarium Sky Calendar will provide illustrations of these and other gatherings. Those issues won’t appear online, but you can find out how to subscribe at www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/skycalendar/

We hope you’ll arrange some “star parties” this summer for your students to take in the beauty of the sky including the Milky Way, and to enjoy views of the Moon, planets, and “deep sky objects” through binoculars and telescopes.

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, California.

  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. 

Astronomy-related media and web resources: A selection






























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!

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.