Celestial Highlights for June 2014
Posted: Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014
by Robert C. Victor with twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller
Three planets are still easy to spot in the evening sky for most of June, and two of them are real showpieces, if you happen to have access to a telescope: Jupiter with its four satellites discovered by Galileo, its two dark cloud belts, and Saturn with its spectacular rings.
The six brightest star-like objects visible at dusk are: Jupiter (the brightest, of mag. –1.9 to –1.8), Mars (mag. –0.5 to 0.0), the stars Arcturus, Vega, and Capella (all near mag. 0.0), and Saturn (+0.2 to 0.4). (The smaller the magnitude number, the brighter the object.) Stars appear to twinkle noticeably, because of the Earth’s atmosphere. The planets generally shine with a steadier light, because they are close enough to Earth to show a disk, at least when seen through a telescope. Each point of the planet’s disk twinkles like a star, but if you add up the light from all the points, the sum is relatively constant.
June’s easily observed evening planets include Jupiter, sinking nearly to WNW horizon late in month, preparing to depart; Mars in S to SW; and Saturn ascending in SE to S. When you see three or more planets widely spaced in the sky, as they are in June, notice how they seem to lie in a nearly straight line across the sky: A line from Jupiter to Mars extended points to Saturn.
Stars: In what remains of winter’s collection, Procyon, the “Little Dog” star, departs early in June, and Capella reaches the horizon around month’s end, the date depending on your latitude. The farther south you are, the sooner Capella departs. Pollux, and nearby Castor, not quite first magnitude and so not shown on our twilight chart, are the only bright winter stars still visible in late June; look for these “Gemini Twins” to upper right of Jupiter. Regulus, heart of Leo, is in WSW to W. Blue-white Spica, spike of wheat in the hand of Virgo, and golden Arcturus, the “Bear Guardian” star in Bootes, the Herdsman, pass their high points in S. Reddish Antares, heart of Scorpius, ascends in SE. Altair rises N of E to lower right of Vega and Deneb, completing the Summer Triangle with them, in time for the season’s beginning.
Follow the waxing Moon in the evening sky as it passes near these planets and bright zodiacal stars: Jupiter on June 1; Regulus on June 3 and 4; Mars on June 7; Spica on June 8; Saturn on June 9 and 10; Antares on June 11; Jupiter again on June 28, but this time with the Moon very low in bright twilight.
For evening planet-watchers: Watch the bent line of Jupiter-Pollux-Castor become straighter and sink closer to the horizon as June progresses. Follow Mars closing in on Spica all month: On June 1st, Mars-Spica are 14° apart; on June 30th, within 6°. 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 to 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. Mars will pass just over 3° north of reddish Antares on Sept. 28.
Four brightest objects: Venus at mag. –4 is the only naked-eye planet up in morning mid-twilight in June. Find this brightest morning “star” low in E to ENE. Next in brightness are three stars all of magnitude zero: golden orange Arcturus setting in WNW; blue-white Vega just west of overhead; and yellowish Capella low in NE, ascending as month progresses.
Other stars: Altair and Deneb, joining Vega to complete the Summer Triangle overhead; Fomalhaut low in SE to S; Antares, heart of Scorpius, setting in SW early in month; and Aldebaran, eye of Taurus, emerging below Venus late in month.
The waning crescent Moon in morning sky passes near: Venus on June 24 (within 2°, and well worth getting up early to see!); and Aldebaran, eye of Taurus the Bull, on June 25. Venus will pass just 4° north of Aldebaran on July 1. The view of Venus, Aldebaran, and the Hyades star cluster in binoculars early that morning will be breathtaking!
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. The June through September issues of the Abrams Planetarium Sky Calendar will provide illustrations of this and other gatherings. Those issues won’t be put online, but you can find out how to subscribe at www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/skycalendar/
We hope you will 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.
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…