September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Celestial Highlights for October and Early November 2015

Posted: Monday, October 19th, 2015

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

During October and early November, there are exceptionally beautiful gatherings of planets in the morning sky. A waning crescent Moon graces the lineup of planets on Nov. 6-7. Except as noted, these spectacular sights covering Oct. 8-Nov. 10 will be well seen about an hour before sunrise.

We hope you will be inspired to organize morning sky watching sessions for your students! With daylight saving time still in effect through October, a 45-minute skywatch from 1-1/2 hours to 45 minutes before sunrise would provide a wonderful, rewarding display of planets at a time not unreasonably early by the clock. Even if you can’t meet together as a class, urge your students and their families to get up early on their own to view the planetary gatherings. The displays on Oct. 22-29 will be especially striking.

The October 2015 Sky Calendar illustrates most of the events described here.

Thurs. Oct. 15, one hour after sunset: Look low in SW to WSW to find the 3-day old waxing crescent Moon with Saturn 7° to its upper left. Look also for reddish twinkling Antares, heart of the Scorpion, 10° lower left of Saturn. By Friday evening, the Moon will appear 6° upper left of Saturn.

Sat. Oct. 17, one hour before sunrise: Look closely for faint Mars just 0.4° (less than a Moon’s width) to the north (upper left) of Jupiter.

Oct. 22-29: Three planets, in order of brightness Venus, Jupiter, and Mars, form a trio, appearing within a 5-degree field of view. Binoculars magnifying up to about 10-power will fit the trio in on these eight mornings. Binoculars of lower magnification, such as 7X, will fit them in for a longer interval, Oct. 17-Nov. 2 if they provide a 7-degree field. Most trios of naked-eye planets involve Mercury (always low in twilight) or Venus (usually low), but on this occasion we catch Venus at its greatest apparent distance from the Sun and near peak altitude of a very favorable apparition high in the eastern morning sky.

Sun. Oct. 25 and Mon. Oct. 26: Venus and Jupiter will appear just over a degree apart, providing striking views, all within a single telescope field: Jupiter with its four bright moons discovered by Galileo, and Venus appearing as a “half moon”. This sight should not be missed! The next pairings of Venus-Jupiter, at dusk on August 27, 2016 and at dawn on November 13, 2017, will be tighter, but low in twilight and will catch Venus on the far side of its orbit, displaying a tiny, nearly full disk. We must wait until the year 2036 for the next pairings of Jupiter with Venus in half or crescent phase, and until Nov. 2039 for a pairing of these planets within the same telescopic field while high in a dark sky.

Beginning Tues. Oct. 27, in morning twilight: Follow the Moon daily for 15 mornings, as it wanes from Full low in the west on Oct. 27, to a thin, old crescent low in ESE only 28 hours before New on Tues. Nov. 10. Watch also for these events:

Wed. Oct. 28, 45 min. before sunrise: Mercury passes within 4° N of emerging Spica. Use binoculars to see the star to the lower right of Mercury. Each morning, Spica appears higher in the sky (resulting from Earth’s revolution around the Sun), and Mercury lower (because the inner planet is faster).

Thurs. and Fri., Oct. 29 and 30, one hour before sunrise: Watch the waning gibbous Moon leapfrog past Aldebaran, eye of Taurus, the Bull. Moon will appear widely S (lower left) of Pollux Nov. 2, and 7° from Regulus Nov. 4 and 5.

Tues. Nov. 3: Venus passes Mars in the last of three close predawn pairings of planets in October-November 2015. Look for the faint red planet just 0.7° N (upper left) of brilliant Venus. This morning the Moon is at Last Quarter phase, appearing half full and 90° or one-quarter circle west of the Sun. First activity of the morning in the schoolyard: In your right hand with arm fully extended, hold a ball up to the Moon and note how the lighting on the ball matches the lighting on the Moon! Use a telescope with a low-power eyepiece fitted with a polarizing filter to view the Moon Nov. 2-4. Rotate the eyepiece in its tube until the blue sky is darkest, and there’ll be plenty of contrast for seeing details on the Moon, even in the daytime!

Fri. Nov. 6: Jupiter about 2° N (upper left) of Moon. Venus 10° to Moon’s lower left. Mars 1.6° upper right of Venus

Sat. Nov. 7: Venus 1.7°, Mars 3.5°, to upper left of Moon. Venus-Mars 2.1° apart.

Mon. Nov. 9: Spica within 4° S (lower right) of Moon.

And finally, on Tues. Nov. 10, about 45 minutes before sunrise: Look for a thin, old crescent Moon, about 28 hours before New, rising in E to ESE 12° lower left of Spica.

Looking ahead: In mid-December 2015, Saturn will emerge into the morning sky. When Mercury returns from late January through most of February 2016, all five naked-eye planets will be fine display in a long arc from ESE to W across the southern morning sky. Stay tuned!

Resources:

See the October 2015 Sky Calendar for illustrations of gatherings described in this article. To subscribe, visit www.abramsplanetarium.org/skycalendar/

Here are Robert Miller’s sky charts depicting positions of bright planets and first-magnitude stars at morning and evening mid-twilight in October 2015.

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 also available. 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 sightings with the aid of items provided: Two planet orbit charts, Mercury through Mars and Mercury through Saturn;table of data for plotting planets on the orbit charts; and a sheet with questions on star and planet visibility updated for 2015-2017. 


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.

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

LATEST POST

CSTA Is Now Accepting Nominations for Board Members

Posted: Friday, November 17th, 2017

Current, incoming, and outgoing CSTA Board of Directors at June 3, 2017 meeting.

Updated 7:25 pm, Nov. 17, 2017

It’s that time of year when CSTA is looking for dedicated and qualified persons to fill the upcoming vacancies on its Board of Directors. This opportunity allows you to help shape the policy and determine the path that the Board will take in the new year. There are time and energy commitments, but that is far outweighed by the personal satisfaction of knowing that you are an integral part of an outstanding professional educational organization, dedicated to the support and guidance of California’s science teachers. You will also have the opportunity to help CSTA review and support legislation that benefits good science teaching and teachers.

Right now is an exciting time to be involved at the state level in the California Science Teachers Association. The CSTA Board of Directors is currently involved in implementing the Next Generations Science Standards and its strategic plan. If you are interested in serving on the CSTA Board of Directors, now is the time to submit your name for consideration. 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 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.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. Learn More…

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

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

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.