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!
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; a 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.
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…