March/April 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 6

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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California Science Curriculum Framework Now Available

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.

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.

Call for CSTA Awards Nominations

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…

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.

Call for Volunteers – CSTA Committees

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…

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.

A Friend in CA Science Education Now at CSTA Region 1 Science Center

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 Learn More…

Written by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw is the student services director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director and chair of CSTA’s Policy Committee.

Learning to Teach in 3D

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…

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: