September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

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 Is Now Accepting Nominations for Board Members

Posted: Friday, November 17th, 2017

Current, incoming, and outgoing CSTA Board of Directors at June 3, 2017 meeting.

Updated 7:25 pm, Nov. 17, 2017

It’s that time of year when CSTA is looking for dedicated and qualified persons to fill the upcoming vacancies on its Board of Directors. This opportunity allows you to help shape the policy and determine the path that the Board will take in the new year. There are time and energy commitments, but that is far outweighed by the personal satisfaction of knowing that you are an integral part of an outstanding professional educational organization, dedicated to the support and guidance of California’s science teachers. You will also have the opportunity to help CSTA review and support legislation that benefits good science teaching and teachers.

Right now is an exciting time to be involved at the state level in the California Science Teachers Association. The CSTA Board of Directors is currently involved in implementing the Next Generations Science Standards and its strategic plan. If you are interested in serving on the CSTA Board of Directors, now is the time to submit your name for consideration. 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 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.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. Learn More…

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Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

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

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.