Celestial Highlights for October: Follow the Moon!
Posted: Tuesday, October 1st, 2013
by Robert Victor and Robert D. Miller
Follow the Moon each day at dusk or dawn, and within one cycle it will introduce you to as many as five naked-eye planets and the five bright stars of first magnitude within the belt of zodiac constellations.
New Moon occurs on Oct. 4. Two days later, on Sunday evening, Oct. 6, about 20 minutes after sunset, a thin sliver of a young lunar crescent will appear very low in the west-southwest, 20° to the lower right of the bright “evening star”, Venus.
If you have mountains nearby, you may need to seek out a place with an unobstructed sight line toward the WSW that evening, since the Moon will be less than 6° up, within half an hour after sunset. But the view through binoculars is worthwhile: Flanking the Moon will be Saturn, 3° upper right, and Mercury, 2° to Moon’s lower left, all within a 5° field! Mercury and Saturn are now departing the evening sky (see our evening twilight sky chart), but Venus will remain visible at dusk until early January.
As the Moon withdraws farther from the Sun, the crescent thickens and appears within 8° of Venus the next two evenings, to the planet’s lower right on Mon. Oct. 7 and to its upper left on Tues. Oct. 8.
Early in the evening, from Sat. Oct. 12 through Sun. Oct. 20, the famous red supergiant star Antares will appear within 5° of Venus. On Wed. Oct. 16, they’ll be as close as 1.5°, with Venus passing above the distant star.
High in the east in October mornings, another very striking pair, of reddish Mars and blue-white Regulus, takes place. During Oct. 7-23, they’ll appear within 5° apart, and within 1° on Tues. Oct. 15.
Continue watching the Moon in the evening sky until it reaches Full on Fri. Oct. 18, when it rises around sunset, and for a few nights beyond, as it rises later each evening.
Look about an hour before sunrise for these events (see our morning twilight sky map): On Oct. 22, Moon very near Aldebaran, eye of Taurus; on Oct. 25 and 26, Moon near Jupiter (the brightest “morning star”) and the Gemini Twins Pollux and Castor. On Oct. 29, exactly two weeks after the close Mars-Regulus pairing, find Moon forming a nearly equilateral triangle with them, 7°-8° on a side. On the same date, Arcturus is 33° due north of the Sun and is equally visible at dawn and dusk, as shown on October’s twilight charts. (On what October date will you first spot Arcturus rising in the ENE? On what date in November will you last spot it setting in the WNW at dusk?) Returning our attention to the Moon, on Nov. 1, look for Spica 9° lower left of the waning crescent Moon. On Nov. 2, about 45 minutes before sunrise, watch for the last thin old crescent Moon rising 4°-5° lower left of Spica.
Here is an at-school activity, “Daily Morning Daytime Moonwatch,” which you can hold with your classes at the start of the school day. Conditions are ideal in October each year while daylight saving time is in effect. This year, a morning moonwatch can be held at 9:00 a.m. PDT daily during October 21 through November 1 or 2, a total of 13 or 14 consecutive days, the maximum possible! On the first date, the Moon starts out nearly full, low in W to WNW at 9:00 a.m. on Oct. 21, and is seen near Last Quarter (half full) phase well up in SW to SSW on the weekend of Oct. 26-27, and ends as a crescent in SE on Nov. 1 (the 1-percent crescent on Nov. 2 will likely be too thin to see in daylight but could be seen before sunrise.) Happily, the morning moonwatch period includes ten weekdays, Oct. 21-25 and Oct. 28-Nov. 1, with the Moon going from 93 percent full to 4 percent full. For a daytime moonwatch student activity, it doesn’t get any better than that! Now all we need is several clear mornings, not unusual for California.
New Moon occurs Nov. 3 (with a partial solar eclipse visible from the East Coast). Early in evening twilight on Nov. 4, look very low in WSW for the 1.5-day old very thin crescent Moon, some 28° lower right of Venus. Binoculars may show Antares about 10° to the Moon’s left. On Nov. 5, the Moon will be an easy sight, 15° lower right of Venus. On Nov. 6, the Moon passes a wide 7° north (upper right) of Venus. Spotting the Moon before sunset, can you use it to help you find Venus in the daytime? Telescopes will show Venus is then a fat crescent, nearly half full. On the same evening, Venus sets farther south than it will again until eight years later, on November 6, 2021. In following weeks, as Venus begins its swing between Earth and Sun, it will become an ever larger but thinner crescent, easily discerned with just a pair of binoculars if you observe in daylight or near sunset.
Beginning in mid-November, all four of the other naked-eye planets will span the morning sky, and the long-awaited Comet ISON may perform. Check the Sky Calendar website, www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/ison/ for updates. More on those topics here next month, and I hope to see you at CSTA in Palm Springs!
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, 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…