Celestial Highlights, September 2016
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.
The morning twilight sky is rich with stars as the Winter Hexagon comprised of stars from Orion, his Dogs, the Twins, the Charioteer with Mother Goat, and Taurus, the Bull. Tracing out the Hex starting with Sirius, the brightest star, going clockwise, we encounter Procyon, Pollux (and nearby Castor, not quite first magnitude and therefore not bright enough to be plotted), Capella, Aldebaran, Rigel, and back to Sirius. Inside the Hexagon lies Betelgeuse, Orion’s shoulder. The Summer Triangle’s Deneb sinks into the NW. Regulus, Leo’s heart, emerges into ENE early in month and is well up in E by month’s end. By. Sept. 22, emerging Mercury approaches within 15° below Regulus. Brightening rapidly, in its best-of-year morning appearance, Mercury reaches peak altitude just before month’s end. If you’re in southern California, can you spot the second brightest star Canopus before month’s end? It’ll be easier in October, when the star reaches its high point in the south (from Los Angeles and Palm Springs, only 3° up!), 4 minutes earlier each day, in ever darker morning skies. Choose your vantage point carefully, with no high mountains nearby to your south.
There are two New Moons in September – on the 1st at 2:03 a.m. PDT, and on the 30th at 5:11 p.m. PDT. So this month we can observe a complete cycle of the Moon displaying all its phases, starting as a thin crescent Moon very low in the west at dusk on Sept. 2, waxing through first half of month, until it becomes Full on the 16th. Next, we can follow the waning Moon in the morning sky through Sept. 29. There are many striking events, starting with a close pairing of Jupiter and a young crescent Moon on Friday, Sept. 2. Early that evening, get to a place with unobstructed view toward west by 25 minutes after sunset, and look for Jupiter and the crescent Moon, about 5°-6° lower right of Venus. Binoculars will help! Moon occults or covers Jupiter that afternoon, but the event will be impossible to see in daylight only 18° from Sun.
Watch the Moon pass planets, as shown in our selection of illustrations from the Abrams Planetarium Sky Calendar. To subscribe, visit www.abramsplanetarium.org/skycalendar/ By next evening, Sat. Sept. 3, Moon is easy to spot, about 6° upper left of Venus. On Sunday, Sept. 4, look for Spica 5° to Moon’s south (lower left). Binoculars will help. Wait for the sky to darken some, but don’t wait too long, or Spica and Moon will set! Don’t miss Moon sliding past the beautiful triangle of Saturn, Antares, and Mars on evenings of Sept. 8 and 9.
Full Moon on Fri. Sept. 16 comes up within 15 minutes after sunset. It’s fun to watch moonrises, and on next five nights the Moon rises about 40-50 minutes later each night.
Beginning Sept. 17, you can shift your viewing times to mornings, about an hour before sunrise, and catch the Moon passing by bright zodiacal stars: Aldebaran in Taurus on Sept. 21 and 22; Pollux and Castor in Gemini on Sept. 24 and 25; and Regulus in Leo on Sept. 27 and 28. On the Moon’s final morning, Sept. 29, the old crescent Moon will appear low in the east, just 2° below Mercury.
Tip for telescopic observation of Moon in daytime: When Moon is within 2 days before or after half full – this month, late in afternoons of Sept 7-10, near First Quarter phase, and on mornings of Sept 21-24, near Last Quarter phase, insert a single polarizing filter into a low-power eyepiece of your telescope. Next, while viewing Moon, rotate the eyepiece until the surrounding blue sky appears darkest, increasing contrast of Moon against sky for wonderful views of lunar craters! (Threaded polarizing filters and threaded eyepieces can be obtained from Orion at telescope.com.) I often enjoy setting up my telescope at schools before the school day begins on mornings in autumn, on days when the Moon is near Last Quarter phase and high in the sky.
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 East Lansing, MI and in and around Palm Springs.
Robert D. Miller 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.
Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt, a retired planetarium director now living in the Chicago area, has taught astronomy and sky watching to all ages. He studied astronomy education at Abrams Planetarium at Michigan State University. Jeff writes an astronomy blog at jeffreylhunt.wordpress.com and can be followed on Twitter at @jeff_hunt.
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…