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: 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…