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: 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…