Sky Events for March 2013
Posted: Friday, February 1st, 2013
Mornings during Feb. 25-Mar. 9, you can continue following the Moon by looking an hour before sunrise. On Feb. 25, find the Full Moon low in the west, with Regulus within 7° to its upper right. On Feb. 28, the waning gibbous Moon has Spica, the spike of grain in Virgo’s hand, 11° to its upper left. On March 1, Spica will appear 3° to the Moon’s lower right. On Mar. 2, Saturn will appear 4° above the Moon. On Mar. 3, the Moon will appear midway between Saturn to the west and Antares to the east, nearly 15° from each. On Mar. 4, Antares, the red supergiant star marking the heart of the Scorpion, will appear 5°-6° below the Moon, now just over half full and approaching Last Quarter (half moon) phase. If you look 4°-5° left of Antares, you’re facing the direction the Earth is headed in our revolution around the Sun. About 3-1/2 hours later, we’ll pass just east of the Moon’s position that morning, but fortunately, again, the Moon won’t be there. On Mar. 5, the fat crescent Moon will be to the east (left) of Antares, and on Mar. 6 above the Teapot of Sagittarius. On Mar. 8, the waning crescent will be within 4° below the pretty binocular double star Alpha in Capricornus, and on March 9, the 7 percent crescent Moon will appear very low in ESE. The last chance to catch the Moon in this cycle will come on the morning of Sunday, March 10, about 30 minutes before sunrise, when the 2 percent crescent will be no more than 5° above the horizon, some 10° south of due east. From southern California, your sighting will be about 30-31 hours before New Moon, which occurs on Monday, March 11 at 12:51 p.m. PDT. Don’t forget to set your clocks ahead one hour when you settle in for the night on March 9 — Daylight saving time begins early Sunday morning, March 10.
Comet PanSTARRS will be at its best in evening twilight in second and third weeks of March. Discovered far beyond the distance of Jupiter in June 2011, its orbit was calculated and it was determined that the comet will approach to only 0.30 astronomical unit from the Sun (within 28 million miles, inside the orbit of Mercury), on the evening of March 9, 2013. Until recently, brightness was forecast to peak at about zero magnitude, but observations until just before this writing show the comet falling short of predictions, and may reach only third magnitude. In either case, we can tell you when and where to look for this Comet, and you can see for yourself.
For California sky watchers, Comet C/2011 L4 (PanSTARRS) until March 2 is above the horizon only in the daytime, so it is the task for more southerly observers to keep tabs on the comet to watch what is going on.
From Southern California, on Saturday, March 2, the Comet sets nearly simultaneously with the Sun, but some 19°-20° farther south (left). Unless the Comet greatly exceeds its best forecasts, it will not be observable on that date from SoCal or locations farther north.
The Comet moves farther north and higher at sunset each day, setting later, in a darker sky. By Thursday, March 7, the Comet for SoCal (latitude of Los Angeles and Palm Springs) sets when the Sun is nearly 10° below the horizon, after mid-twilight (Sun 9° down), about 7° to the left of the sunset position some 44 minutes after sunset.
During the evenings of March 8-11, you can make timed observations of the Sun as it approaches the western horizon to forecast where the Comet will appear later that evening. On those evenings, the Comet will appear within a few degrees left or right of the Sun’s earlier position. Warning: Especially on the first evenings, you’ll need an unobstructed view of the western horizon, or else the Comet might be covered up too early!
Here are the details:
On Friday, March 8, follow the Sun until it is no more than 2 degrees above the true horizon, and note the Sun’s position in relation to your distant horizon features, and note the time. Wait 52 minutes (SoCal) to 50 minutes (Northern California), and, if the Comet is bright enough, you’ll find it 4° to the left of the Sun’s earlier position.
On Saturday, March 9, the evening PanSTARRS passes the perihelion of its orbit, follow the Sun until it is 3° to 2° above the true horizon, some 19 to 15 minutes before sunset, and note the Sun’s position in relation to your horizon scene, and note the time. Wait 58 minutes (SoCal) to 57 minutes (NoCal), and look for the Comet just over 1° to the left of the Sun’s earlier position.
On Sunday, March 10, you’ll be operating about an hour later by your clocks now set to Daylight Saving Time, but still during twilight. The Comet now sets just over an hour after sunset. Follow the Sun until it is 4° to 3° above the true horizon, about 24 to 22 minutes before sunset, and note the Sun’s position in relation to your horizon scene, and note the time. Wait 64 minutes (SoCal) to 65 minutes (NoCal), and look for the Comet nearly 2° to the right of the Sun’s earlier position.
On Monday, March 11, follow the Sun until it is about 5° above the horizon, about 30 minutes before sunset, and again note the Sun’s position over your landscape and note the time. Wait 69 (SoCal) to 71 (NoCal) minutes, and look for the Comet just over 4° right of the Sun’s earlier position.
On Tuesday, March 12, you won’t need to use this time delay/azimuth offset method to locate PanSTARRS. Just wait until the sky gets reasonably dark; nautical twilight, Sun 12° down, occurs 54 minutes after sunset from SoCal. Before then, find a young crescent Moon very low, nearly due west, and as the sky darkens, use binoculars to spot the Comet within 4° to the left of the crescent Moon. If the comet lives up to its original expectations, it should be a stirring sight! Even if the Comet doesn’t perform, just the sight of the very thin, 31-hour crescent would be a fine reward.
The waxing Moon appears much higher each evening, and on Wednesday, March 13, Californians will find the Comet 11° below and slightly right of the lunar crescent. On Thursday the 14th, look nearly 23° lower right of the crescent.
Observing at nautical twilight (Sun 12° down), comet watchers in southern California will see PanSTARRS almost directly above the Sun’s position on March 14. We might then expect to see the Comet’s ion tail point straight upward, and the dust tail curving to the upper left. Observers in NoCal will find the northbound comet straight above the Sun’s position on the next evening.
By Sunday, March 17, the Comet will be nearly 6° above the horizon at nautical twilight from SoCal. As if to compensate in case the Comet didn’t “pan out”, on this same evening there will be a spectacular compact gathering of the crescent Moon with Jupiter, Aldebaran, and the Hyades star cluster, not to be missed!
Seen at nautical twilight from SoCal, Comet PanSTARRS will stay at 6° altitude but fade as it travels northward, standing in the WNW on March 21, and in the NW around April 3. From northern California, the Comet will continue getting higher as March progresses.
On the night of March 28-29, PanSTARRS passes nearly 30° due north of the Sun, and thereafter is in better position for predawn viewing. But by then the Comet will have faded to 3.5 magnitudes below its peak brilliance, or only 1/25 as bright as at its March 9 perihelion.
For more on Sky Calendar (the source of the illustrations accompanying this article), visit www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/SkyCalendar/.
For the latest report on what to expect of Comet PanSTARRS, visit: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/skytel/beyondthepage/Comet-PanSTARRS-Updates-185665152.html
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…