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: 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…