September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Celestial Highlights for September 2014

Posted: Friday, August 29th, 2014

by Robert C. Victor with twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller

Mars forms colorful pairs with other objects in the southwest evening sky in September, as the red planet moves from just over 5° from yellowish Saturn on Sept. 1, to within 5° of red Antares Sept. 22-Oct. 3. Saturn with rings tipped 22° from edge-on is impressive through a telescope, if you catch it before it sinks low.

Some 40 minutes before sunrise, the brightest planet Venus can still be spotted low, north of east early in month, but in twilight, to lower left of bright Jupiter. The gap between them is 15° on Sept. 1 and widens by 1° daily, as Jupiter ascends higher, while Venus sinks deeper into the solar glare.

The crescent Moon near a planet is an attractive sight. Catch a waning crescent near Jupiter at dawn on Sept. 20, and a waxing crescent very near Saturn at dusk on Sept. 27. On Sept. 29, the lunar crescent passes above a pair of red objects, Mars and Antares, just over 3° apart.

The Moon appears in Sagittarius, not far from the center of our galaxy, on Sept. 3 and 30. Those are not good nights for viewing the Milky Way! Neither is the night of Full Moon, Sept. 8. By Sept. 13, moonrise occurs two hours after the end of twilight, allowing dark moonless skies for excellent views of the Milky Way for the next two weeks.

September 2014 at dusk

The five brightest objects in evening mid-twilight (ignoring Mercury near mag. 0, but very low in W to WSW) are: Arcturus and Vega, mag. 0.0; Saturn (+0.6); Mars (+0.6 to +0.8) fading to equal Altair (+0.8).

Evening planets: Saturn is in SW to WSW, lower as month progresses. Mars starts this month just over 5° lower left of Saturn and 18° right of Antares, heart of Scorpius, the Scorpion. Watch Mars move! On Sept. 5 and 6, look for a nearly vertical “fence” of three stars about midway between Mars and Antares; it marks the head of the Scorpion. By Sept. 12 Mars is equidistant from Saturn and Antares, 11° from each. On Sept. 17, Mars passes just half a degree north of 2nd-mag. Delta Scorpii, the middle star of the “fence”. Mars passes 3° N of Antares on Sept. 27 and 28, with a crescent Moon nearby on the next evening. Compare color and brightness of Mars and Antares (“rival of Mars”) for several evenings around their closest approach. Mercury is highest at midmonth, but a paltry 3° up in mid-twilight from southern California in this poor apparition, and even worse from farther north. It passes 0.6° S of Spica on Sept. 20. Binoculars, very clear skies, and an unobstructed horizon are needed to observe this event.

Stars: Spica departs in WSW. Arcturus remains prominent in W, and Antares sinks toward SW. Vega, leading star of the Summer Triangle, passes nearly overhead, with Altair and Deneb remaining east of the meridian (north-overhead-south line) at mid-twilight through September. Fomalhaut rises in SE at month’s end.

Moon in evening sky is found near Mars and Saturn on Aug. 31; near Antares on Sept. 1; near Saturn on Sept. 27; and near Mars and Antares on Sept. 29. On evenings following the Full Moons of late summer and early fall, we usually get a “Harvest Moon effect”, when the Moon rises not very much later each evening. But this year, the perigee on Sept. 7 and low inclination of the Moon’s orbit increase the daily time delay over what it can be for the Harvest Moon in most years. (The year-round long-term average delay is 50 minutes.)

This month, the smallest delay for Palm Springs is an unremarkable 41 minutes.) For those who enjoy catching a “big” reddened Moon as it first appears, here are moonrise times (in PDT) for Palm Springs, and Moon’s position along the horizon. (Mountains can delay the appearance by several minutes.)

Mon. Sept. 8, 6:47 p.m., 3° S of E

Tue. Sept. 9, 7:29 p.m., 3° N of E

Wed. Sept. 10, 8:10 p.m., 8° N of E

Thu. Sept. 11, 8:51 p.m., 13° N of E

Fri. Sept. 12, 9:34 p.m., 17° N of E

Sat. Sept. 13, 10:19 p.m., 20° N of E

Sun. Sept. 14, 11:06 p.m., 22° N of E

Mon. Sept. 15, 11:55 p.m., 23° N of E

Sun rise/set and Moon rise/set times for any location and much more are available at the Astronomical Applications Department of the U.S. Naval Observatory, at http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/index.php Remember to add one hour when applicable, if the data doesn’t already include a correction for daylight saving time.

September 2014 at dawn

The four brightest objects are: Venus near mag. –4, but in bright twilight and sinking out of sight at our mid-twilight viewing time during third week; Jupiter near mag. –1.8 and climbing in the east will take over the reigns. Next in brightness are Sirius in SE to SSE, and Capella nearly overhead.

The latter two are the southernmost and northernmost stars of the huge “Winter Hexagon”, in clockwise order, Sirius, Procyon, Pollux (and Castor, not shown), Capella, Aldebaran, Rigel, and back to Sirius. Betelgeuse, Orion’s shoulder, resides within the Hexagon. Regulus, the heart of Leo, the Lion, follows the Hexagon across the sky, as if to chase his next meal, with the twins of Gemini, Orion and two dogs, Auriga, the Charioteer with Capella, the mother goat, and Taurus the Bull as possible menu options. Find emerging Regulus just 0.8° south (lower right) of Venus on Sept. 5. The only other star of first magnitude visible in September’s dawns is Deneb in NW, the last star of the Summer Triangle to set.

Before morning twilight brightens, use binoculars to find the Beehive star cluster, 3° above Jupiter on Sept. 1, widening to 8° upper right of Jupiter at month’s end, as the planet moves eastward against background stars.

Moon in morning sky appears near Aldebaran on Sept. 14 and 15; widely (11°) N of Betelgeuse on Sept. 16; between Procyon and Pollux on Sept. 17; S of Jupiter on Sept. 20; and within 5° S of Regulus on Sept. 21.

>

— Resources —

On next month’s eclipses: Get Ready for October’s Two Eclipses [link]

For an overview of this school year, with some activities to start right away:

Getting started in skywatching (for school year 2014-2015) [link]

For a detailed account of sky events for this entire school year:

Summary of Sky Events for the School Year 2014-2015 [link]

Modeling seasonal visibility of stars and visibility of the planets. As stars and planets come and go in morning and evening skies and display beautiful pairings and groupings, students can model these activities with the aid of these four items: Two planet orbit charts, Mercury through Mars [link]; and Mercury through Saturn [link]; a table of data for plotting planets on orbit diagrams, Heliocentric Longitudes of the Planets [link]; and an activity sheet with15 questions on star and planet visibility in 2014-2016, Seasonal Visibility of Stars, and Visibility of Planets in 2014-2016, from positions of planets in their orbits [link].

Enjoy the changing sky!

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

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.

News and Happenings in CSTA’s Region 1 – Fall 2017

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Cal

This month I was fortunate enough to hear about some new topics to share with our entire region. Some of you may access the online or newsletter options, others may attend events in person that are nearer to you. Long time CSTA member and environmental science educator Mike Roa is well known to North Bay Area teachers for his volunteer work sharing events and resources. In this month’s Region 1 updates I am happy to make a few of the options Mike offers available to our region. Learn More…

Written by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw is the student services director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director and chair of CSTA’s Policy Committee.

Is This a First: Young Female Teens Propose California Water Conservation Legislation?

Posted: Monday, August 28th, 2017

Meet the La Habra Water Guardians from the Optics of their Teacher Moderator, Dr. P.

by Susan M. Pritchard, Ph.D.

You have just won the 2016 Lexus Eco Challenge as one of four First Place Winners in the Middle School Category across the nation! Now, what are you going to do … go to Disneyland? No, not for four of the six La Habra Water Guardians, Disneyland is not in their future at this time. Although I think they would love a trip to Disneyland, (are you listening Mickey Mouse?), at this moment they are focused big time on one major thing … celebrating the passage of their proposed legislation: Assembly Bill 1343 Go Low Flow Water Conservation Partnership Bill and now promoting the enactment of this legislation. Learn More…

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.