Sky Events in April 2012
Posted: Monday, April 2nd, 2012
by Robert Victor
During the first week of April, Venus and the Pleiades star cluster (the Seven Sisters) appear in the same field of view of binoculars. The moon will appear close to Mars and the star Regulus on Monday and Tuesday evenings, April 2 and 3. On Friday, April 6 the moon, just past full, will appear close to the star Spica and the planet Saturn. After that, the moon rises later each night, and will return to the early evening sky in late April when it will appear as a crescent near Jupiter very low in the west-northwest at dusk on April 22, and near Venus on April 24. On April 30, the moon for the second time this month will appear near Mars and Regulus, and on May 3 and 4, the moon will appear near Saturn and Spica. The moon will be full on May 5.
In late April, Venus attains greatest brilliance, bright enough to spot in a clear daytime sky, especially just before sunset. Approaching Earth, the planet grows large enough to reveal its thinning crescent phase when viewed through steadily held binoculars. On Tuesday June 5, Venus will pass directly in front of the sun and will appear in transit as a tiny black dot only 1/32 of the sun’s apparent diameter. After June 5, it’ll be more than a century until the next transit of Venus, on December 10, 2117. So don’t miss this one! But you must use a safe filter, such as a number 14 welder’s glass suitable for naked-eye viewing, or a solar filter.
Get your filter in time, and you can use it to observe the solar eclipse on Sunday, May 20. Or you can view a projected image of the eclipsed sun. One way to do this is to put together a “pinhole projector” made from a long cardboard box, a postcard with holes punctured by a ballpoint pen placed over a large hole cut out of one end of the box, and a sheet of white paper (to function as a screen) taped to the inside of the opposite end of the long box.
April’s events are illustrated on the Abrams Planetarium Sky Calendar, available at www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/skycalendar.
Five Spectacular Months for Planet-watching: April-August 2012
In April-August 2012, students, parents, and teachers can enjoy: The moon passing as many as four bright planets and five stars of first magnitude or brighter in the evening sky each month; Venus in crescent phases this spring, culminating with its rare transit across face of the sun on June 5; Mars in April, although faded some from its peak brilliance in early March, is still brighter and closer than it’ll be again until its next approach to Earth in April 2014; four bright planets Jupiter-Venus-Mars-Saturn visible simultaneously each evening during most of April; Saturn and the star Spica visible all night in mid-April and paired more closely in spring and summer 2012 than they’ll be again until 2041; a major solar eclipse before sunset on May 20; a partial lunar eclipse before dawn on June 4; and a compact rendezvous of Mars, Saturn, and Spica at dusk just after Curiosity lands on the Red Planet in August.
These items may help students visualize and enjoy these events:
The April 2012 Sky Calendar and evening sky map, now available at www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/skycalendar/.
A 48” x 36” poster depicting sky events during February through August 2012, a 24” x 24” poster of planetary orbits including a data table for plotting the planets during 2012-2013, and a problem set on predicting planetary visibility from Earth and seasonal visibility of stars are all available by scrolling down at www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/homeschool/index.html#poster.
The two posters without the problem set are available separately at www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/homeschool/celestialhighlights2012abrams.pdf and www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/SkyCalendar/OrbitCharts2012-2013.pdf.
A PowerPoint slide show of sky events during January through August 2012 is available at www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/celest12.html.
Details for California sky watchers of the May 20 solar eclipse and the June 5 transit of Venus with safe viewing methods will be provided in the May issue of California Classroom Science.
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.
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…