May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

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.

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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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CSTA Annual Conference Early Bird Rates End July 14

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

Teachers engaged in workshop activity

Teachers engaging in hands-on learning during a workshop at the 2016 CSTA conference.

Don’t miss your chance to register at the early bird rate for the 2017 CSTA Conference – the early-bird rate closes July 14. Need ideas on how to secure funding for your participation? Visit our website for suggestions, a budget planning tool, and downloadable justification letter to share with your admin. Want to take advantage of the early rate – but know your district will pay eventually? Register online today and CSTA will reimburse you when we receive payment from your district/employer. (For more information on how that works contact Zi Stair in the office for details – 916-979-7004 or

New Information Now Available On-line:

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.

Goodbye Outgoing and Welcome Incoming CSTA Board Members

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Jill Grace

Jill Grace, CSTA President, 2017-2019

On July 1, 2017 five CSTA members concluded their service and four new board members joined the ranks of the CSTA Board of Directors. CSTA is so grateful for all the volunteer board of directors who contribute hours upon hours of time and energy to advance the work of the association. At the June 3 board meeting, CSTA was able to say goodbye to the outgoing board members and welcome the incoming members.

This new year also brings with it a new president for CSTA. As of July 1, 2017 Jill Grace is the president of the California Science Teachers Association. Jill is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, a former middle school science teacher, and is currently a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd where she works with California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative districts and charter networks in the San Diego area.

Outgoing Board Members

  • Laura Henriques (President-Elect: 2011 – 2013, President: 2013 – 2015, Past President: 2015 – 2017)
  • Valerie Joyner (Region 1 Director: 2009 – 2013, Primary Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Mary Whaley (Informal Science Education Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Sue Campbell (Middle School/Jr. High Director: 2015 – 2017)
  • Marcus Tessier (2-Year College Director: 2015 – 2017)

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.

Finding My Student’s Motivation of Learning Through Engineering Tasks

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Huda Ali Gubary and Susheela Nath

It’s 8:02 and the bell rings. My students’ walk in and pick up an entry ticket based on yesterday’s lesson and homework. My countdown starts for students to begin…3, 2, 1. Ten students are on task and diligently completing the work, twenty are off task with behaviors ranging from talking up a storm with their neighbors to silently staring off into space. This was the start of my classes, more often than not. My students rarely showed the enthusiasm for a class that I had eagerly prepared for. I spent so much time searching for ways to get my students excited about the concepts they were learning. I wanted them to feel a connection to the lessons and come into my class motivated about what they were going to learn next. I would ask myself how I could make my class memorable where the kids were in the driver’s seat of learning. Incorporating engineering made this possible. 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Updated Recommended Literature List

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled an addition of 285 award-winning titles to the Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list.

“The books our students read help broaden their perspectives, enhance their knowledge, and fire their imaginations,” Torlakson said. “The addition of these award-winning titles represents the state’s continued commitment to the interests and engagement of California’s young readers.”

The Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list is a collection of more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and adolescents. Reflecting contemporary and classic titles, including California authors, this online list provides an exciting range of literature that students should be reading at school and for pleasure. Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama to provide for a variety of tastes, interests, and abilities. 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:

Teaching Science in the Time of Alternative Facts – Why NGSS Can Help (somewhat)

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn

The father of one of my students gave me a book: In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown, Ph. D. He had heard that I was teaching Plate Tectonics and wanted me to consider another perspective. The book offered the idea that the evidence for plate tectonics could be better understood if we considered the idea that beneath the continent of Pangaea was a huge underground layer of water that suddenly burst forth from a rift between the now continents of Africa and South America. The waters shot up and the continents hydroplaned apart on the water layer to their current positions. The force of the movement pushed up great mountain ranges which are still settling to this day, resulting in earthquakes along the margins of continents. This had happened about 6,000 years ago and created a great worldwide flood. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.