May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Sky-Watching Activities, December 2012 to Early January 2013

Posted: Monday, December 3rd, 2012

by Robert C. Victor

Two difficult observations on Wednesday, December 12:

(1) Just over an hour before sunrise, try to see four planets simultaneously. It’s harder than it was two weeks earlier. Beginning with Venus, note Saturn 18° to its upper right, and Mercury just risen in ESE 6.5° to Venus’ lower left. When Mercury is 4° up, Jupiter is also 4° up, but in the opposite direction, WNW. If mountains don’t block your view, you might see all four of these planets at once. Note: Saturn-Venus-Mercury lie in a straight line. (2) Next, even more difficult, wait until about 30 minutes before sunrise, then extend the Mercury to Venus line 9° lower left of Mercury, and, using binoculars, there you may find a very thin crescent old Moon less than 3° above the horizon. From the Coachella Valley near Palm Springs, the Moon is just 18.5 hours before New. (New Moon occurs on Thursday, Dec. 13 at 12:42 a.m. PST). 

Extremely young Moon in early dusk on Thursday, December 13:

This is even more challenging. Using binoculars, look about 25 minutes after sunset, very low, about 25° to 30° south of due west, only about 3° above the horizon. The sky will have to be exceedingly clear. The Moon will be only 9° from the Sun, and will appear as a very fine hairline crescent, less than a semicircle in extent. Near the Coachella Valley, from places where local mountains don’t block the view, the Moon’s age (time elapsed since New) will be only about 16 hours 20 minutes.

If you succeed in seeing these opposing crescents on consecutive days, the old Moon in morning twilight on Dec. 12 and the young Moon at dusk on Dec. 13, you will be in very rare company. Either sighting by itself would be noteworthy.

The Moon’s absence leaves the sky dark for a fine view of the Geminid meteor shower, at its best on the night of Dec. 13-14, from late evening until dawn.

The waning crescent will be easy on the morning of Dec. 11 and the waxing crescent will be easy on the evening of Dec. 14, if skies are clear.

Follow the Moon one hour after sunset December 14-25.

On Friday, Dec. 14, look about one hour after sunset to find the crescent Moon, 4 percent full, about 30 degrees south of west and some 9 degrees up. Note Mars 7° to Moon’s upper left.

On Sat. Dec. 15, one hour after sunset, the crescent Moon is higher and thicker, 10 percent full. Find Mars 11° below the Moon.

On Wed. Dec. 19, an hour after sunset, the Moon is in the southern sky, nearly half full. Approaching First Quarter phase, the Moon is nearly 90 degrees from the Sun.

On Mon. Dec. 24, find the waxing gibbous Moon in the eastern sky, 5° south of the Pleiades star cluster.

On Tues. Dec. 25, at sunset, the Moon is 20° up and about 20° north of east, with Jupiter about 1.3° above the Moon’s center. Can you spot Jupiter before sunset? If you received a pair of binoculars for a present, this would be a good time to try them out. By an hour after sunset, Jupiter will appear 1.6° above the Moon. They spread to about 3° apart as they pass just south of overhead about 10 p.m. About three hours before sunrise on Wed. Dec. 26, find Jupiter sinking into the WNW about 5° lower right of the Moon.

Follow the waning Moon one hour before sunrise Dec. 27-Jan. 10:

Th Dec 27  Moon setting in WNW, nearly Full.

Fr Dec 28   Moon LL of Twins, UR of Procyon.

Sa Dec 29  Moon left of Twins, above Procyon.

Tu Jan 01   Moon below Regulus.

We Jan 02  Moon left of Regulus.

Th Jan 03   From California, the Quadrantid meteor best just before morning twilight begins, about 1.5 hours before sunrise.

Sa Jan 05   Moon 3° right of Spica; note Saturn 16° LL of Spica.

Su Jan 06   Moon 7° right of Saturn and 11° LL of Spica.

Mo Jan 07  Moon 10° LL of Saturn.

Tu Jan 08   Moon 24° LL of Saturn and 8° above Antares, heart of the Scorpion.

We Jan 09  Crescent Moon low in SE, 11° LL of Antares and 12° UR of Venus.

Th Jan 10   Last crescent Moon (2%) very low in ESE, 3° left of Venus.

Fr Jan 11   New Moon, 11:44 a.m. PST.

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

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. Robert is a member of CSTA.

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CSTA Annual Conference Early Bird Rates End July 14

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

Teachers engaged in workshop activity

Teachers engaging in hands-on learning during a workshop at the 2016 CSTA conference.

Don’t miss your chance to register at the early bird rate for the 2017 CSTA Conference – the early-bird rate closes July 14. Need ideas on how to secure funding for your participation? Visit our website for suggestions, a budget planning tool, and downloadable justification letter to share with your admin. Want to take advantage of the early rate – but know your district will pay eventually? Register online today and CSTA will reimburse you when we receive payment from your district/employer. (For more information on how that works contact Zi Stair in the office for details – 916-979-7004 or

New Information Now Available On-line:

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Goodbye Outgoing and Welcome Incoming CSTA Board Members

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Jill Grace

Jill Grace, CSTA President, 2017-2019

On July 1, 2017 five CSTA members concluded their service and four new board members joined the ranks of the CSTA Board of Directors. CSTA is so grateful for all the volunteer board of directors who contribute hours upon hours of time and energy to advance the work of the association. At the June 3 board meeting, CSTA was able to say goodbye to the outgoing board members and welcome the incoming members.

This new year also brings with it a new president for CSTA. As of July 1, 2017 Jill Grace is the president of the California Science Teachers Association. Jill is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, a former middle school science teacher, and is currently a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd where she works with California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative districts and charter networks in the San Diego area.

Outgoing Board Members

  • Laura Henriques (President-Elect: 2011 – 2013, President: 2013 – 2015, Past President: 2015 – 2017)
  • Valerie Joyner (Region 1 Director: 2009 – 2013, Primary Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Mary Whaley (Informal Science Education Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Sue Campbell (Middle School/Jr. High Director: 2015 – 2017)
  • Marcus Tessier (2-Year College Director: 2015 – 2017)

Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Finding My Student’s Motivation of Learning Through Engineering Tasks

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Huda Ali Gubary and Susheela Nath

It’s 8:02 and the bell rings. My students’ walk in and pick up an entry ticket based on yesterday’s lesson and homework. My countdown starts for students to begin…3, 2, 1. Ten students are on task and diligently completing the work, twenty are off task with behaviors ranging from talking up a storm with their neighbors to silently staring off into space. This was the start of my classes, more often than not. My students rarely showed the enthusiasm for a class that I had eagerly prepared for. I spent so much time searching for ways to get my students excited about the concepts they were learning. I wanted them to feel a connection to the lessons and come into my class motivated about what they were going to learn next. I would ask myself how I could make my class memorable where the kids were in the driver’s seat of learning. Incorporating engineering made this possible. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the California NGSS k-8 Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Updated Recommended Literature List

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled an addition of 285 award-winning titles to the Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list.

“The books our students read help broaden their perspectives, enhance their knowledge, and fire their imaginations,” Torlakson said. “The addition of these award-winning titles represents the state’s continued commitment to the interests and engagement of California’s young readers.”

The Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list is a collection of more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and adolescents. Reflecting contemporary and classic titles, including California authors, this online list provides an exciting range of literature that students should be reading at school and for pleasure. Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama to provide for a variety of tastes, interests, and abilities. Learn More…

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy:

Teaching Science in the Time of Alternative Facts – Why NGSS Can Help (somewhat)

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn

The father of one of my students gave me a book: In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown, Ph. D. He had heard that I was teaching Plate Tectonics and wanted me to consider another perspective. The book offered the idea that the evidence for plate tectonics could be better understood if we considered the idea that beneath the continent of Pangaea was a huge underground layer of water that suddenly burst forth from a rift between the now continents of Africa and South America. The waters shot up and the continents hydroplaned apart on the water layer to their current positions. The force of the movement pushed up great mountain ranges which are still settling to this day, resulting in earthquakes along the margins of continents. This had happened about 6,000 years ago and created a great worldwide flood. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.