Roger Ivester: Amateur Astronomer

Posted December 15, 2015 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

Thank you for visiting my site.  I’m hopeful that you will find it to be interesting and beneficial in your future observations.  Roger Ivester 


The Importance of Documenting Your Observations

Posted February 5, 2016 by rogerivester
Categories: The importance of documenting your observations

My lifelong notes, sketches, and other documentation as an amateur astronomer.  The following photo represents 25 years (I do have other material, but not shown) of more than 5,000 hours of observing, documenting, sketching, filing and other.  


When I purchased my first serious telescope back in the mid-70’s, I also picked up a small astronomy reference book: “The Finest Deep-Sky Objects” by James Mullaney and Wallace McCall.  It was a small paperback with 31 pages, filled with an incredible amount of information, with the majority of objects being double stars.  It also contained a good variety or number of galaxies, nebulae, star clusters, and even included several prominent red stars.  This would be my first list of objects to observe.  It occurred to me at that time, it would be good to document what I was seeing.  However, in the beginning my notes were very poor, mentioning only the object and what it was.  I had to start somewhere, and this is how most amateurs begin their documentation of observations, writing down nothing more than “I saw M37 and M42…etc.”

The late Tom Lorenzin, author of “1000+ The Amateur Astronomer’s Field Guide to Deep-Sky Observing” told me the same thing.  He made me feel better, saying that he too, in his early days listed only the objects identification, being the M-number, NGC or IC.  

In the early 90’s I began using “1000+” almost exclusively, at least for the following ten or more years.  I really liked the descriptions by Lorenzin, being relatively brief, but saying so much.  He was very effective in his use of words.  I patterned my descriptions to follow in Tom Lorenzin’s footsteps….attempting to use precision, but not being overly wordy.   

At the same time, astronomy professor, friend and mentor Tom English, encouraged me to begin writing articles for our local astronomy club newsletter.   

My writing and observation notes both improved during this period, but I needed more than just notes.  I started pencil sketching, as it’s true…”a picture is worth a thousand words.”  

It’s my opinion: visual observing is seeing the faintest of detail in each and every deep-sky object, then recording and/or sketching the object if at all possible.    

I will never forget being at an astronomy conference during the early 90’s.  Tom Lorenzin was one of the speakers.  He was sharing his story of writing “1000+” and during his presentation, Tom touched on pencil sketching.  Lorenzin said:  “we have a master sketcher in the room with us….Roger Ivester.”   Wow!  I had obviously arrived, but maybe Tom was just being kind.  

The complimentary statement from Lorenzin inspired me to take my sketching to a higher level, after all, I had just been recognized by a nationally known amateur astronomer!  

During those early years, I had the opportunity to finally meet astronomy writer, author, lecturer and double star expert, James Mullaney. He looked at my notes and sketches, with special emphasis on the double stars. He encouraged me to continue with my observational work, and documentation. So I give much credit for my humble accomplishments to amateur astronomy to Tom English, James Mullaney, and again…the late, Tom Lorenzin.

I continued to sketch and to-date have spent thousands of hours at the eyepiece, never wanting to be anything more than a visual backyard observer as related to amateur astronomy.    

Since the “Finest Deep-Sky Objects” book was my first list of deep-sky objects to complete, I wanted to go back during the mid-90’s and view all of the “FDSO’s” again.  

Between 1995-96, I did go back through all of the “FDSO’s”, and submitted a report each month for our local astronomy club newsletter.  For this project, I spent over 250 hours at the telescope eyepiece, and another 50 or more hours summarizing and writing an article for the club newsletter.  It was a much bigger job than I could ever have imagined, spending almost thirty hours per month for a year to complete the project!  Ouch!  

Tom English helped me put together a book:  “The 105(+1) Finest Deep-Sky Objects Revisited” and as Mullaney always thought, the Crab Nebula or M1 should have been included in the original list.  My book is shown below, one opened to show the format, and the other closed to show the cover.  The original “FDSO’s” by Mullaney and McCall is on the left, closed.  Over 400 note cards with both notes and sketches are in the 3 x 5 notecard box.  


I started observing in the mid-60’s at about 13 years of age, but it’s been only in the past 25 years that I’ve become a very serious student of amateur astronomy.  Previous to that, I would just go outside, observe a few objects, and then come back into the house.  No notes, no sketches, no nothing.  What a waste of good observing time and years!  

I just wish I had some notes from my first observations of the Andromeda Galaxy, the Ring Nebula, and many other deep-sky objects which I managed to stumble across as a 13 year old using my brothers 60 mm refractor.  I can close my eyes even now, and see that vacant field beside my house, with the Milky Way seemingly visible from horizon to horizon.  It was a great place for a young budding amateur astronomer to begin a lifelong trek into the depths of deep-space. 

Roger Ivester

In the past I’ve made my sketches on 3 x 5 notecards, or larger scale 8.5 x 11 sketch pads.  However, for the past five or more years, my favorite is 5 x 8 blank notecards with a 3.5-inch circle drawn on the right side.  

For the Observer’s Challenge, the colors are inverted using a computer.  The seven sketches below are a good representation of my current system of drawing. 

It’s very important to me that my sketch be as accurate as possible, as seen through the eyepiece, without any embellishment. 

M13 And The Elusive Propeller

SN in M82 Revised -1

 M22 - August 2012 - Challenge

Pacman Nebula - NGC 281


Virgo Diamond - five stars

NGC 1502 & Kemble's Cascade-1

Scanned Image 120080000

“Plan now for the 2017 Eclipse” By Michael E. Bakich, Senior Editor of Astronomy Magazine

Posted February 2, 2016 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized


“Are you getting excited yet?  As you read this, we’re less than a year and a half away from the biggest celestial event of our lives…the total solar eclipse that will cross the continental United States August 21, 2017.”   March 2016 Astronomy Magazine by Michael E. Bakich  senior editor.

Four pages full of information for anyone with an interest in seeing this event.  The path of totality, and 25 common sense tips to make it more enjoyable, and what to do.  As noted in the article, Michael will be conducting a massive public viewing party for the eclipse at Rosecrans Memorial Airport in St. Joseph, Missouri.  

Click on the following link to learn more.

My wife, Debbie and I will be driving to South Carolina, with the exact site undetermined at this time.  Roger and Debbie Ivester


NGC 1023 – Galaxy In Perseus

Posted January 14, 2016 by rogerivester
Categories: Observer's Challenge Reports

NGC 1023 – Galaxy in Perseus
Observer: Roger Ivester
Date: November 3rd 2003
Conditions: NELM ~ 5.5
Seeing: Excellent
Telescope: 10-inch f/4.5 Newtonian Reflector
Sketch Magnification: 114x
FOV: 0.50º

Description: Small, lens shape, oriented E-W with a broad and well concentrated core, and a stellar nucleus. The halo extensions are very faint, but with well defined edges. A triangle of three stars, making a triangle, just SW of the galaxy, and a chain of three stars leading off toward the NE edge.

I made the following pencil sketch using a 10-inch reflector with the colors inverted via a computer.   Roger Ivester

Rogers NGC-1023

The following image was made by Jim Gianoulakis of Nevada using a 12.5-inch telescope, with six, ten minute images stacked. 


Please click on the following link to read the entire “Observer’s Challenge Report”



Cold Weather Boots For Amateur Astronomers

Posted January 6, 2016 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized


One of the first things I learned as a very young observer:  If the feet get cold, observing is not fun and is impossible, especially when the temperatures drop into the teens or even the 20’s or 30’s.  We all know it’s those beautiful transparent skies of winter that the serious amateur loves the most.  The seeing might not be the best, and double stars might suffer, but galaxies and nebulae are presented at their best, due most often to the excellent transparency.  

Pictured above are the boots that I’ve had for many years.  I’ve been able to observe at temperatures in the teens, for as long as four to six hours without warming, with either pair.   The “Mickey Mouse” boots or the black rubber ones are “replica” military paratrooper boots.  They are great, and require only one pair of socks.  The other pair is my Canadian made ( -40º boots) with removable liners, and also designed to be worn with only one pair of socks.  

It’s important to insure that the feet have good circulation, and many amateurs make the mistake of wearing more than one pair of socks, which tighten and constrict blood circulation.  This in turn, causes the feet to FREEZE….so get the proper boots if you are going to observe on cold nights!   




2015 in review

Posted December 31, 2015 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 9,100 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Astronomy Magazine – “Observing Basics” By Glenn Chaple

Posted December 20, 2015 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized


Contributing Editor, Glenn Chaple recognized the Observer’s Challenge…it’s purpose and function in the January 2016, edition of Astronomy Magazine in his “Observing Basics” column.  The Challenge report will celebrate seven years in February 2016.  To read more, check out the (January 2016) Astronomy Magazine, page 20.  

Thank you Glenn, for giving all of the participates of the Observer’s Challenge a bit of recognition for 82 consecutive monthly reports.

The Observer’s Challenge was designed to allow any serious amateur, the opportunity to share and be a part of an international observing project.

To view all of the Observer’s Challenge Reports, look to the right, under categories, then click on:

“Observer’s Challenge Reports:  Complete –  All Report From 2009”

The 2016 Observer’s Challenge Deep-Sky Objects List:

January: M78 – Orion; Bright Nebula; Mag. 8.0; Size: 8’ x 6’
Elongated fan shaped nebula, with three stars involved.

RA: 05h 46.7m Dec. +00º 03’

February: NGC 2237 – “The Rosette Nebula” Monoceros: Wreath shaped nebulosity, exceeding 1º in size. An O-III or UHC filter is a must to enhance the view. The nebula surrounds open cluster,

NGC 2244. RA: 06h 30.3m Dec. +05º 03′

March: NGC 2392 – PL Nebula – “The Eskimo Nebula” Gemini; Mag. 9.2 – Size: 50” – Named the “Eskimo Nebula” due to the appearance of an Eskimo face on long exposure photographs.

RA: 07h 29.2m Dec. +20º 55’

April: NGC 3077 – Galaxy – Ursa Major; Magnitude 9.9 – A member of the M81 group.

RA: 10h 03.4 Dec. +68º 44’

May: M100 – Galaxy in Coma Berenices; Mag. 10.7; Size: 7’ x 6’ – Very large and bright. Long time Observer’s Challenge contributor, Gus Johnson in April of 1979 visually discovered a 12th magnitude SN in M100. Johnson was given credit for the discovery of 1979C.

RA: 12h 22.9m Dec. +15º 49’

June: M5 – Globular Cluster – Serpens Caput; Mag. 6.2; Size: 17’ – “This superb object is a noble mass, refreshing to the senses after searching for fainter objects” Admiral Smyth (1838)

RA: 15h 18.6m Dec. +02º 05’

July: M92 – Globular Cluster – Hercules – Mag. 6.5 – Size: 11’ – “Rival of M13!” The late Tomm Lorenzin

RA: 17h 17.1m Dec. +43º 08’

August: Chaple’s Arc and the Cygnus Fairy Ring – Asterism – Size 40′ x 40′ – An interesting and fascinating circlet of double stars, easily observed with a moderately sized telescope at medium magnification. The asterism fits nicely within a 1º field of view, with at least eight or more double stars visible…

RA: 20h 05m Dec: +38º 09′

I made the following pencil sketch using a 10-inch reflector at 57x. 



September: NGC 7009 – “Saturn Nebula” Aquarius; Mag. 8.0 – Size: 20’ – On a night of exceptional seeing, a good 10 or 12-inch telescope may show ansae as faint projections of nebulosity spanning 44″ and ending in a bright condensation” David Eicher “The Universe From Your Backyard”

RA: 21h 04.0 Dec. -11º 22’

October: NGC 7479 – Galaxy – Pegasus – Mag. 10.9; Size: 3.2’ x 3.5’ – “If your eye is properly dark-adapted, the galaxy should be visible in even a 3-inch telescope, but a 6-inch is better” Walter Scott Houston “Deep-Sky Wonders” selections and commentary by Stephen James O’Meara

RA: 23h 04.9m Dec. +12º 19’

November: NGC 206 – Star Cloud or Stellar Association in the spiral arm of the Andromeda Galaxy

RA: 00h 40.6m Dec. +40º 44m

December: M74 – Spiral Galaxy; Pisces; Mag. 9.4; Size: 10’ – “This is a difficult galaxy for the 4-inch (Unitron f/15 refractor) but it is easily seen in the 10 x 40 finder” John Mallas “The Messier Album”

RA: 01h 36.7m Dec. +15º 47m


NGC 1579 – “The Northern Trifid” – Reflection Nebula in Perseus – February 19th 2013

Posted December 19, 2015 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized


NGC 1579 – “The Northern Trifid”  Reflection Nebula in Perseus 

Date: January 31st 2013 – Telescope: 10-inch f/4.5 reflector @ 104x – Location: Moderately light polluted Backyard in western North Carolina with a NELM 4.8 

Faint and very diffuse with a brighter oval shaped middle.  The texture is somewhat mottled and uneven, and at least two dark lanes can be seen with averted vision (see sketch).  The nebula has very uneven edges which fade very gradually outwards.  A 12M star lies just to the NE, and a group of four stars to the south make the shape of a dipper.  This is a most interesting object which seems to be overlooked by many amateurs.  The following sketch was made using a 5 x 8 blank notecard, a No. 2 pencil, and an eraser.  The color was inverted using a scanner…

Roger Ivester  2-16-13

NGC 1579 - Reflection Nebulae-1

Date: January 31st 2013 – 10-inch reflector @…

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