March/April 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 6

Celestial Highlights for November 2014

Posted: Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller.

Annually in late November, catch the Pleiades or Seven Sisters star cluster visible all night: Low in ENE at dusk, high in S in middle of night, and low in WNW at dawn. A view of this beautiful star cluster through a pair of binoculars is a sight not to be missed!

The brightest stars in November at dusk:

(1) Arcturus, the “Bear-chaser” star, can still be spotted very low in WNW at dusk at start of November but disappears below the horizon by second week. Mountains to your west would hasten its departure. (2) Vega is very high in WNW, 3/4 of the way from horizon to overhead on Nov. 1, and still halfway up to overhead at month’s end. (3) Capella, the “Mother-goat” star, is very low in NNE to NE at dusk in November and very slowly gaining in altitude. Note how stars near the horizon such as Arcturus and Capella twinkle much more than stars nearly overhead, such as Vega. The twinkling, as well as the considerable dimming of stars near the horizon, is caused by the passage of their light through Earth’s atmosphere.

Other bright stars at dusk: Altair, high in SSW to WSW, marks the southern point of the Summer Triangle it completes with Vega and Deneb. Fomalhaut, “Mouth of the Southern Fish”, is low in SSE, climbing toward its highest point in S. Late in month, Aldebaran, eye of Taurus the Bull, begins rising before mid-twilight. Look in ENE, about 14° below the Pleiades or Seven Sisters star cluster. Aldebaran’s name is Arabic; it means “the follower”, because that star follows the Pleiades cluster across the sky. (The cluster does not appear on our star maps, because its brightest star is of 3rd magnitude; the maps plot only the stars of first magnitude or brighter, and the naked-eye planets.)

Every year around December 1, the Earth passes between Aldebaran and the Sun, and the first magnitude star appears at opposition, nearly 180° from Sun and above the horizon nearly all night. About ten days earlier, around Nov. 20-21, the Pleiades star cluster comes to opposition, rising in the ENE in deepening twilight. The scene is well described in Alfred Lord Tennyson’s Locksley Hall:

“Many a night I saw the Pleiades,
rising thro’ the mellow shade
glittering like a swarm of fireflies
tangled in a silver braid.”

Evening planets: In Nov. 2014 at dusk, Mars is the only planet visible to unaided eye. It glows at first magnitude in SSW to SW all month. Look 1-1/4 hours after sunset to follow the eastward motion of Mars past the background stars of Sagittarius. On Nov. 4 Mars passes only 0.6 degree north of the 3rd-mag. star marking the top of the Teapot. On Nov. 10, Mars passes 2° north of a 2nd-mag. star in the Teapot’s handle. Venus passed superior conjunction on the far side of the Sun on Oct. 25. Wait until just after the Sun disappears below your horizon in late November, and start searching for Venus. By November 30, Venus is 9° upper left of Sun and sets 33 minutes after sundown. In December, Venus will become easier to see with unaided eye, and during spring and early summer of 2015, it will be very impressive indeed.

Moon near bright objects: Moon, Full on Nov. 6, draws closer to Aldebaran overnight on the next night, Nov. 7-8, and pulls away from that star on night of Nov. 8-9, from two hours after sunset until dawn. A waxing crescent Moon appears near Mars at dusk on Nov. 25 and 26.

November’s dawn sky has many bright stars!

Six brightest objects are Jupiter of mag. –2.1 to –2.2, very high in SE to SW; Sirius, the “Dog star”, in SSW to SW; Mercury –0.6 to –0.9 low in ESE until it drops below mid-twilight horizon near end of 3rd week; Arcturus climbing in ENE to E; Vega emerging in NE at month’s end; and Capella well up in NW.

Other stars: The huge Winter Hexagon now appears entirely west of the meridian (N-S overhead line). In clockwise order, its stars are Sirius, Procyon, Pollux (with fainter Castor nearby, not shown), Capella, Aldebaran, and Rigel. Betelgeuse, Orion’s shoulder, is inside the Hexagon. Rigel will be the first star of the Hexagon to reach the western horizon, near month’s end. Jupiter and Regulus cross the meridian in pursuit of the Hexagon. Arcturus and Spica ascend the eastern sky all month. Brighter descending Mercury passes 4° N of Spica on Nov. 4, as Spica climbs higher daily.

Moon near bright objects at dawn: Moon appears near Aldebaran at dawn on Nov. 8 and 9; widely N of Betelgeuse at dawn on Nov. 10; between Procyon and Pollux at dawn on Nov. 12. At dawn on Nov. 14, find the Last Quarter (morning half moon) 5° from Jupiter, with Regulus about 8° E of the bright planet. At dawn on Nov. 15, the Moon will appear within 6° of Regulus. On Nov. 19, the waning crescent Moon will appear within 3° of Spica. Using binoculars, watch for Mercury rising 13° lower left of Moon Nov. 20, and just 2° lower right of the last old crescent Moon 40 min. before sunrise on Nov. 21.

  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.

Powered By DT Author Box

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.

Leave a Reply


California Science Curriculum Framework Now Available

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.

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.

Call for CSTA Awards Nominations

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…

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.

Call for Volunteers – CSTA Committees

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…

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.

A Friend in CA Science Education Now at CSTA Region 1 Science Center

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 Learn More…

Written by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw is the student services director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director and chair of CSTA’s Policy Committee.

Learning to Teach in 3D

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…

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: