Celestial Highlights for November and Early December 2015
Posted: Wednesday, November 11th, 2015
by Robert C. Victor; Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller
In evening twilight in the course of November, the Summer Triangle with brightest member blue-white Vega at its northwest corner, drifts slowly from nearly overhead into the high western sky. Meanwhile lonely Fomalhaut, Mouth of the Southern Fish, moves from southeast toward the south. Bright Arcturus departs in west-northwest, making way for almost equally bright Capella rising in northeast. Low in southwest to west-southwest, Saturn and Antares 8 degrees to its left are challenges for binoculars early in month, until their quick departure. Aldebaran, eye of Taurus the Bull, is at opposition to Sun around December 1, so may be seen rising in east-northeast during twilight in late November.
In November’s morning twilight, Venus in east to southeast easily ranks first in brilliance. Next is Jupiter, climbing 6 to 34 degrees to Venus’ upper right and almost reaching south. The next dozen slots are taken by stars, headed by Sirius in southwest, Arcturus climbing in east-northeast to east, and Capella well up in northwest. Sirius and Capella mark the southern and northern vertices of the Winter Hexagon. In clockwise order beginning at Sirius, its other members are Procyon, Pollux (with Castor), Capella, Aldebaran, Rigel, and back to Sirius, with Betelgeuse inside. Regulus, heart of Leo the Lion, reaches its high point in the south while chasing the Hexagon across the sky. Following Regulus is the line of planets Jupiter-Mars-Venus, and finally Spica, spike of grain in Virgo, rising up from low in east-southeast to well up in southeast. In late November or early December, watch for the rising of Vega far to the northeast. From its appearance until Rigel sets in west-southwest, 11 stars of first magnitude or brighter are visible, along with the three planets.
Watch for These Events
Thurs. Nov. 12, about half an hour after sunset: Binoculars may show young crescent Moon very low in WSW, with Saturn 2°-3° to its lower left.
Fri. Nov. 13: Last morning Venus-Mars within 5°.
Fri. Nov. 22: Last morning Venus-Mars within 10°. First morning Venus-Spica within 10°.
Wed. Nov. 25 at dusk: Watch for Aldebaran rising 4° lower left of Full Moon in ENE. Binoculars will help you see the star in Moon’s glare throughout the night. Early Thanksgiving morning, the Moon passes narrowly north of Aldebaran, without covering it. From southern California this happens around 2:48 a.m. PST, when the star appears less than one-quarter of a moon’s width from Moon’s southern limb. From near the OR-CA border to SC, there will be a grazing occultation, as the star repeatedly disappears and reappears from behind mountains on the Moon’s S limb. From north of that path, Aldebaran is occulted by the Moon.
On Thanksgiving Nov. 26 in morning twilight, Moon is low in WNW, with Aldebaran just over a degree to its lower right.
Nov. 29 & 30, morning: Venus-Spica appear closest, 4.2° apart.
Fri. Dec. 4, morning: Jupiter 5° upper right of Moon.
Sat. Dec. 5, morning: Mars 5°-6° lower left of Moon.
Sun. Dec. 6, morning: Spica 5° lower right of Moon.
Mon. Dec. 7, morning: Spica midway between Venus and Mars, 10° from each. Spectacular close conjunction of crescent Moon and Venus in morning twilight. Continue observing after sunrise and witness a daytime occultation of Venus by the Moon. From Palm Springs, binoculars and telescopes show the leading sunlit edge of Moon covering Venus at 8:09 a.m. PST, and trailing dark edge of Moon (invisible in daylight) uncovering Venus at 9:59 a.m. Times vary with observer’s location.
After Dec. 7, the waning Moon can be followed for 2-3 additional mornings. On Thurs. Dec. 10, 40 minutes before sunup, try for the very thin old crescent, only 20-21 hours before New, very low in ESE. Binoculars will be helpful for spotting it, and possibly emerging Saturn, rising within 3° to Moon’s lower right.
Illustrations of events in this article appear in Sky Calendar. For a sample issue and how to subscribe, visit www.abramsplanetarium.org/skycalendar/
An activity, Modeling seasonal visibility of stars and visibility of the planets, to help students investigate visibility of bright planets and first magnitude stars, is available at the CSTA website. As stars and planets come and go in morning and evening skies and display beautiful pairings and groupings, students can model these changes and explain their observations with the aid of items provided: Two planet orbit charts, Mercury through Mars and Mercury through Saturn; a table of data for plotting planets on orbit charts (.docx file); and a table of data for plotting planets on orbit charts (.docx).
A Selection of Media for the Science Classroom
Take your classes on a field trip to a planetarium, or arrange for a portable planetarium to visit your school!
Astronomy Picture of the Day: www.apod.nasa.gov/apod/astropix.html
Sky and Telescope magazine: www.skyandtelescope.com
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.
Robert D. Miller, who provided the twilight charts and the planet orbit 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…