Selected Sky Events for August 2012
Posted: Wednesday, August 1st, 2012
by Robert C. Victor
Events for August 7, 13-14, and 20-21 are illustrated below. For illustrations of additional events, refer to the Abrams Planetarium Sky Calendar. Subscription information is available at www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/skycalendar. Here are the selected sky events for August, along with some questions to prompt discussions with students:
- Wed. Aug. 1, one hour after sunset: Saturn and Spica are now within 4.5°, forming a nearly isosceles triangle with Mars, within 8° to their west. On Aug. 3, Saturn passes conjunction with Spica in celestial longitude for the third and last time during this apparition. They reach least separation of 4° 27’ apart on Aug. 6 and won’t appear that close again until 2041.
- Tues. Aug. 7, one hour after sunset: Mars now pulls to within 4.8° of Saturn and within 4.2° of Spica. Saturn is within 4.5° of Spica. All three sides of the triangle remain less than 5° long tonight through August 20. Image courtesy of Abrams Planetarium. Subscriptions to the sky calendar ar $11.00 per year, starting anytime, from Sky Calendar, Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University, 755 Science Rd, East Lansing, MI 48824 or online.
- Sat. Aug. 11, 1-1/2 hours before sunrise: Here is a beautiful gathering of the waning crescent Moon with bright Jupiter (mag. –2.2), Aldebaran, and the Hyades star cluster. Jupiter is 4° to 5° lower left of the Moon from mid-U.S. (The Moon occults Jupiter by 12 noon from Hawaii). Aldebaran is just over 5° S of Jupiter. There is a triple conjunction of Jupiter and Aldebaran in 2012-2013, in each case the planet going N of the star. Least separations occur on July 30 and December 11 (4.7°), and on March 18, 2013 (5.1° apart).
Also visible this morning, but not shown, is Venus, now 22° lower left of Jupiter. Within a half an hour, watch for Mercury (mag. +0.9), rising 28° lower left of Venus, and Procyon, rising 15° right of Mercury.
- Mon. Aug. 13, one hour before sunrise: Venus appears within 4° E of the waning crescent Moon from mid-U.S. This is a perfect day to use the Moon to follow Venus long into daylight hours. The Moon occults Venus in afternoon from most of North America, soon after 1 p.m. PDT from U.S. West Coast but just before moonset from E coast. For a map and timetable of disappearance and reappearance, visit www.lunar-occultations.com/iota/planets/0813venus.htm. To convert UT to your local time, use www.lunar-occultations.com/iota/utc.htm. Image courtesy of Abrams Planetarium. Subscriptions to the sky calendar ar $11.00 per year, starting anytime, from Sky Calendar, Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University, 755 Science Rd, East Lansing, MI 48824 or online.
In morning twilight, Mercury (mag. +0.5) is 28° lower left of Venus. (See Aug. 15 and 16.) Also visible is Jupiter (mag. –2.2), 23° upper right of Venus. Keep watch low in ESE for the rising of the Dog Star Sirius, 26° to the right and a little lower from Procyon, the “before the dog” star announcing the imminent rising of Sirius.
- Tues. Aug. 14, one hour after sunset: A striking, nearly straight-line arrangement of three bright objects: Saturn (mag. +0.8) highest, with Mars of mag. +1.1 located 2.7 degrees below Saturn on their evening of least separation, and finally +1.0-mag. Spica 1.8° below Mars. Mars and Spica were closest last night, 1.7° apart. Tonight’s distances in light travel time: Mars 14 minutes, Saturn 85 minutes (6 times as far away as Mars), and Spica 260 years.
- Wed. Aug.15, one hour before sunrise: This morning Venus (mag. –4.4) reaches greatest elongation, 46° W of Sun. Through a telescope it appears as a half-illuminated disk, 0.4 arcminute across. Far to its lower left is a beautiful crescent Moon, with +0.1-mag. Mercury 8° or 9° to its lower left.
- Thurs. Aug. 16, 45 minutes before sunrise: This morning is Mercury’s turn to reach greatest elongation, in this case just 19° W of the Sun. Also on this date, Mercury reaches its least distance from Venus during this apparition, 27°. Binoculars might help you spot the thin old crescent Moon, rising about 6° below and a little right of Mercury. The Sun is about 8° below the ENE horizon, 19° lower left of Mercury.
Visualize this: If you could park yourself in space north (upper left) of the Sun, so you could watch from “above” the solar system to see the planets revolve around the Sun, in which direction would they go? Recall that Venus passed inferior conjunction, between Earth and Sun, during the transit on June 5, and Mercury passed inferior conjunction, but without a transit, on July 28. Both planets pass greatest elongation just a day apart on Aug. 15-16, and are therefore now heading around toward the far side of the Sun. Earth is revolving around the Sun also, but Mercury and Venus, on the inside tracks, are going faster. From the vantage point north of the solar system, the planets revolve counterclockwise around the Sun. Mercury will reach superior conjunction on Sept. 10, but Venus won’t do so until March 2013.
Here is another question to ponder: Venus reaches its greatest brilliance about five weeks before and after inferior conjunction, while it’s in crescent phase about one-fourth full, on the nearer side (but not the closest point) of its orbit. But Mercury is brightest close to superior conjunction, when it is near its maximum distance from Earth. So now, even though both planets are near greatest elongation west of the Sun, Venus is fading and Mercury is getting brighter. Can you explain why?
- Mon. Aug. 20, one hour after sunset: The triangle Mars-Saturn-Spica, for the last time, is still less than 5° on each side. The shortest side is Mars-Saturn, 4.1° long. Look early to catch the Moon about 12° lower right of Spica.
- Tues. Aug. 21, one hour after sunset: Here’s a compact gathering of the crescent Moon, two planets, and a star, all within a 6.5° field. Can you fit all four bodies within the field of view of 7-power binoculars? Of the three bright stellar bodies, Mars (mag. +1.2), Saturn (mag. +0.8) and Spica (+1.0), which do you think will still be visible evenings in October? (In fact, it will still be visible at dusk at year’s end.)
I hope you have enjoyed the selection of sky events for August. In the rest of 2012, we’ll see spectacular conjunctions of the waning crescent Moon and Venus before dawn on Sept. 12, Oct. 12, Nov. 11, and Dec. 11. Jupiter will appear near the Moon on the mornings of Sept. 8, Oct. 5 and 6, Nov. 1 and 2, and evenings of Nov. 1, 28, and Dec. 25. Venus and Saturn will appear in a close pairing on the mornings of Nov. 26 and 27. All these and many more events will be illustrated in future issues of Sky Calendar.
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.
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…