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.
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.
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!
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…