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: 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…