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!
(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.
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.
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…