Roger Ivester: Amateur Astronomer

Posted December 15, 2015 by rogerivester
Categories: Roger's Articles

Thank you for visiting my site. I’m hopeful that you’ll find it both interesting and possibly beneficial in your future observations.

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I first became interested in astronomy in the mid-60’s at the age of twelve. One of my brothers, Jim had purchased a 60 mm refractor, and I soon became interested in this telescope.

It had an equatorial mount, several eyepieces, a Barlow lens, and a host of other accessories. I would take this small telescope into a weedy field beside  my house, where I hoped to view some of those fabulous spiral galaxies, nebulae and star clusters I’d seen in my science books. However, this was not yet to be, as I had quite a bit of learning to do, which continues to this day.     

I grew up in the foothills of North Carolina, and my house was located near the end of a dirt road with only two others.  

It was a fabulous place for a budding new amateur astronomer, completely devoid of light pollution. The sky was velvety black with the Milky Way extending almost to the southern horizon. 

My progression was slow, and found amateur astronomy to be difficult.  However, it was fun just being outside with my telescope in total solitude.

When looking into the eyepiece, the colors of the stars became obvious. I perceived some as being rust, white, blue, bluish-white, or orange. And sometimes while looking at those distant suns, I’d wonder if there was life beyond the Earth.

I can still remember the frogs in the spring and summer, and occasionally a solitary great horned owl in the distance on those cold wintry nights.  

Summer in western North Carolina had a sound all its own, with a million insects singing in perfect harmony.  Gazing at a dark sky, full of stars and listening to the sounds of nature was mesmerizing.  

During those early years, I didn’t know of another kid having an interest in telescopes and astronomy.  At least twenty years would pass before I would meet that other person with a similar interest.  And finding that other person with an interest in astronomy would finally happen in 1985.  A local astronomy club was formed and I became a member with my youngest son, Brad.  

I gave my first amateur astronomy presentation to my eighth grade science class in October 1967.  The title of my presentation was “How To Use An Astronomical Telescope.” I used my brothers 60 mm Sears (Jason) refractor, and told the class all about it, and most importantly, how to use it.  I was a big hit…even if it only lasted for the remainder of the day.  

It wasn’t until the mid-70’s that I acquired my very own telescope, a 4 1/4-inch Edmund Scientific Newtonian reflector, a Palomar Jr. which was not my first choice, but the best my budget would allow at this time in my life.

Using an inflation calculator, the cost of the Edmund reflector which was $159.50 in 1976, would be $744.45 in 2019.  

I’ll never forget one special night using that humble Edmund scope, while attempting to locate M81 and M82, two of the most beautiful galaxies in the heavens. And by this time, the fabulous skies of my early years were gone. I’d moved to an area packed with houses and street lights.   

One night, I was using my hands in an attempt to block the ambient light from entering my eyepiece, and then it happened:  A small and faint fuzzy object entered my telescope view, and then with a slight nudge, another…..finally M81 and M82.  What a beautiful sight!  I savored the view for the longest time and to this day and I can still feel that excitement.  I went to bed smiling that night, and in my mind, I was now a real amateur astronomer!    

Getting Serious:

There would be many other successes and failures in the years to follow, however, it wasn’t until 1992 that I became a serious observer. A new 10-inch, equatorially mounted reflector allowed me to see faint deep-sky objects that were impossible with my previous smaller telescopes. 

After a period of time with my new 10-inch reflector, I soon realized that just going outside and observing was not enough.  I needed a purpose, something more lasting.  I began taking copious notes on all objects observed, noting the minutest of details, or at least to the best of my abilities.  This also proved to be somewhat lacking, so I added to those notes by pencil sketching.  I soon realized that drawing deep-sky objects challenged me to really see what I was trying to observe.

Over the past years, I have observed and cataloged many deep-sky objects, accumulating more than a thousand pencil sketches. This has required many hours at the eyepiece, and a countless number of hours working on notes, organization of the notes, sketches and astronomy articles.  

My first recorded notes were fairly brief, and my sketches were not as detailed as I would have liked.  Even today, I’m still working to improve both my notes and sketching, never being totally satisfied  with the results.  I suppose that sketchers and astrophotographers are very much alike in this regard…always striving for something better.   

Supplemental:  

Co-founder of the Las Vegas Astronomical Society Observer’s Challenge report.   An international deep-sky observing report, which allows any serious amateur the opportunity to share notes, sketches and images for a preselected deep-sky object on a monthly basis. The observer’s challenge will begin its eleventh year in 2019.  

Observer’s Challenge mission statement: “Sharing observations and bringing amateur astronomers together” 

I was fortunate to be able to play a role in the Mount Potosi Observing Complex in Southern Nevada, facilitating a $50,000 telescope donation by Dr. James Hermann, M.D. from North Carolina. The facility has been featured in Astronomy Magazine, the Las Vegas Review Journal and other publications.  

https://rogerivester.com/2016/12/04/mount-potosi-observing-complex-las-vegas-astronomical-society-an-aerial-photo-by-james-yeager-pilot-american-airlines/

Astronomy blogger since 2010.   http://www.rogerivester.com 

Roger and Debbie Ivester 

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Just had to include a photo of my other hobby….cycling.  I’ve been fortunate to have logged more than 140,000 lifetime miles, as of 2018.      

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NGC 7448 – Galaxy in Pegasus – Observer’s Challenge Object – October 2019

Posted November 9, 2019 by rogerivester
Categories: Work File Only - Observer's Challenge Reports

The complete Observer’s Challenge report link as following: 

OCTOBER 2019 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-7448_

My first observation of galaxy NGC 7448, came on the night of October 24, 1994, using a 10-inch reflector.   Roger Ivester 

October 24th 1994: 

“10-inch @ 57x, can vaguely detect with direct vision, situated between two two dim stars, which are oriented ESE-NW of the galaxy.  When increasing the magnification to 190x, the galaxy appeared elongated, still fairly difficult, but could be seen with direct vision.  However, averted vision allowed a clear view of the elongated shape, oriented N-S, with a brighter stellar core.” 

It would be almost twenty five years before I would observe this galaxy again, on September 26th, 2019.  

An astronomy friend, Richard Nugent from Massachusetts, visited both my wife Debbie and I, and were fortunate to be able to observe the galaxy that night.  We estimated the NELM at about 5.0, which is actually pretty good for my back yard this time of the year in the foothills of North Carolina. 

Using a 10-inch reflector, the galaxy was fairly easy to see with direct vision, at 114x.  When increasing the magnification to 174x, using a 12.5 mm eyepiece and a 1.9x Barlow, the galaxy appeared elongated and oriented N-S, with a brighter core.   

However, for a faint galaxy such as this, and using a 10-inch reflector in a moderate-plus light polluted location….just being able to recognize and see a few minor details can be an accomplishment or considered a success.  

I was pleased to be able to see the very faint double star, magnitudes, 13.5 and 14.0 located to the NNW of the galaxy.   (Magnitudes from NOMAD, and provided by special advisor to the Observer’s Challenge, Sue French)  

The double is actually a triple, but the third component is very faint at magnitude 15.7, which is far too faint for my 10-inch reflector.  I’m hoping that others using much larger telescopes were able to see this third star.  

Roger Ivester 

Pencil sketch:  10-inch reflector @ 174x 

Rogers NGC-7448 Inverted

Notes and pencil sketch by Sue French:

NGC 7448 is the brightest of five NGC galaxies that mark the corners of a nearly equilateral triangle with 28′-long sides. It sits at the triangle’s western corner. I first logged NGC 7448 in 1988 for the Astronomical League’s Herschel 400 observing program. Since then I’ve visited it a number of times, along with its buddies, through a few different scopes. My Observer’s Challenge sketch was done with my 254/1494mm (10-inch f/5.8) reflector at magnifications of 187× to 299×.

NGC 7448 appears fairly bright and elongated at 68×, with a 10th-magnitude star in attendance 2½′ east by south of the galaxy. At 115× NGC 7448 presents a moderate-size oval glow, twice as long as wide, that grows gently brighter toward the center. At 187× the galaxy shows a south-by-east tilt. Its large, elongated core looks brighter in the north. At 213× I estimate a size of about 1.7′ × 0.8′.

NGC 7465 shares the field of view with NGC 7448 at 68×, but it’s dimmer and roundish with a tiny, bright center. The galaxy sits 4′ east of an 8th-magnitude star and is tucked inside the western corner of a ¼° trapezoid formed by that star and three others, magnitudes 9 and 7. At 115× the small glow of the galaxy is easily viewed. Its core is tipped NNW and harbors a tiny bright nucleus. At magnifications of 187× to 299×, the core grows brighter toward a stellar nucleus and the faint halo is just a thin coating of fluff that slightly rounds out the galaxy’s profile.

NGC 7463 emerges as an east-west glow at 115×, dwelling just 2½′ WNW of NGC 7465. At 213× it shyly offers an elusive stellar nucleus and has a very elongated façade. At 299× NGC 7463 maintains an almost uniform surface brightness.

NGC 7464 is a tiny little thing dangling south of the eastern half of NGC 7563. I was only able to spot it during one of my observing sessions. With averted vision at 299×, I could catch repeated glimpses of the galaxy as a round dot. It was difficult to see, and I couldn’t hold it steadily in view.

Together NGC 7463, NGC 7464, and NGC 7465 hold down the western corner of the galaxy-pinned triangle. 

NGC 7454 is parked on the triangle’s northern point and is visible even at 43× as a tiny smudge off the ESE side of a 11½-magnitude star. A 9th-magnitude star lies 4½′ east by north. The galaxy is faint and somewhat oval at 68×, and 115× reveals a relatively large, bright, oval core. In addition to the 11½-magnitude star near the galaxy’s WNW side, the higher power captures a 13½′-magnitude star a little farther away to the NNW. NGC 7454 grows gently brighter toward the center at 187×, and at 213× I estimate the visible size as about 1′ × ⅔′.

I’d hoped all the galaxies would fit in my 187×, 32′ field of view, but that wasn’t big enough, so I cheated and nudged the scope north to get NGC 7454. I also used higher magnifications to add some of the details. Sketching stars, I began with those near the galaxies and brighter field stars. For three nights it kept clouded up before I could try to get the rest, so I decided leave the sketch as is. North is to the left and west is up. 

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Mario Motta image:  32-inch telescope

See attached, 90 mins exposure on NGC 7448. Wiki says it is 80 million LY away, about 60,000 LY across. Notable for “detached spiral arm segments” which I think you can easily see in my image. Interesting object.

Taken with 32 inch scope SBIG STL 1001E camera, 500 seconds subs, 90 mins total exposure.  Processed in pixinsight. 

NGC7448

The Importance of Taking Notes and Making Sketches For Future Reference

Posted November 7, 2019 by rogerivester
Categories: Roger's Articles

I wanted to share information concerning an observation I made on April 20, 1993.  It’s a testament that documenting and taking good notes is indeed a good thing!   

Forward to February 1994: 

While reviewing my logbook, I discovered that I’d not followed up on an object viewed on 20 April 1993.  The primary object was NGC 3893, an 11th magnitude galaxy in Ursa Major.  While making my sketch of this galaxy, I noticed a smaller, much fainter object, SE of NGC 3893.  

So, while browsing through my logbook, I saw my notes that said:  “follow up on this observation.”  However, it would be ten months later (February 1994) before going back and checking data.   

I checked Burnham’s Celestial Handbook, Tom Lorenzen’s 1000+, and the Tirion Sky Atlas 2000.0 only to find that none of these sources listed a companion galaxy.  I then went to the NGC-2000.0 Catalog by Roger Sinnott, and found the companion listed as NGC 3896, a very faint and small 14th magnitude galaxy.  

If I had not sketched NGC 3893, most likely I would have missed NGC 3896.  And, if I had not noted  the companion, I probably would never have checked any reference material.  

This might be a good story in favor of being sure to document your observations.  

Roger Ivester

A newer pencil sketch of the galaxy pair, made April 1st 2014 

My original pencil sketch from the night of April 20th, 1993, that spawned my  interest in this galaxy pair.  

 

M71 – Globular Cluster In Sagitta – Observer’s Challenge Object – September 2019

Posted October 15, 2019 by rogerivester
Categories: Work File Only - Observer's Challenge Reports

SEPTEMBER 2019 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – M-071

6-inch reflector:  Pencil sketch, using a blank 5 x 8 notecard, with the colors inverted.  Roger Ivester

 

 

A Nice Visit With Richard Nugent; Amateur Astronomer and Friend From Boston

Posted October 4, 2019 by rogerivester
Categories: Roger's Articles

Photo:  Richard, Debbie and myself having lunch.  

Afterwards we enjoyed a nice drive around the community, with plenty of good conversation. 

Later in the evening, an observing session from my back deck.  We observed galaxy NGC 7448….the Observer’s Challenge object for October.  

What is the Observer’s Challenge report? https://rogerivester.com/category/observers-challenge-reports-complete/

Richard and I share a similar story as amateur astronomers.  Both of us became interested  in astronomy at about the same age, during the late 60’s.   

At that time, I was using my brothers 60 mm refractor.  Richard was fortunate to have an 8-inch reflector.  

We really enjoyed Richard’s visit!  

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M11 – Open Cluster in Scutum – Observer’s Challenge Object – August 2019

Posted August 22, 2019 by rogerivester
Categories: Work File Only - Observer's Challenge Reports

Complete report: AUGUST 2019 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – M-011-1

The following pencil sketch, with the colors inverted was made using a 6-inch f/6 Newtonian reflector telescope @ 83x.  

Rogers M-011 Inverted

Image by Mario Motta: 32-inch telescope 

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Image by Michael Brown using a Canon digital SLR camera, through an 8-inch Celestron SCT.  This photo is from 12 30-second exposures (6 minutes total) at ISO 3200.

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The following image was taken with a 10-inch f/6.9 Newtonian with the same camera. The exposure was 30 minutes. Most of the stars in the image belong to the cluster, perhaps 500-1000 visible here. The faintest stars in the image are magnitude 16!    James Dire

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Stock Canon 80D, 400mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 800, 35subs x 30sec = 17.5 min total
exposure, 1/2 scale (4 arcsec/pixel).  No filters.  By Doug Paul 

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SkyShed POD Personal Observatory: By Guest Host, James Dire

Posted August 19, 2019 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

Hi All,

Had a productive day at the observatory yesterday. Got the Sky Shed POD anchored to the concrete and installed all of the equipment. After dark, did the polar alignment and a mount model.  All is ready to start imaging!

The anchor bolt in the photo goes 3 inches into the concrete.  The telescope is an 8-inch Ritchey-Chretien. I’m using an 0.8x Focal Reducer/Field Flattner with the CCD camera which yields an f/6.4 system with a 1300mm focal length.

The camera is an SBIG ST-2000XCM. Controlling everything with The SkyX Pro and imaging with MaximDL.

I’ll probably swap cameras occasional with an SBOIG STF-8300c and swap telescopes with my 5.2-inch f/7 refractor.

Jim

 

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Stellafane 2019 by Guest Host: Mario Motta

Posted August 5, 2019 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

https://stellafane.org/

Entering Stellafane:  I always feel like I am going home. 

I have been attending Stellafane since 1967. This was my 46th (I missed 5 years due to medical school and internship, and 1999 when I went to an eclipse in Hungary), so…I have been attending for a 52 year span. 

My Children have been gong with me since birth, and still attend nearly every year, and this year my 4 year old granddaughter joined as well!, In fact also had a niece and her three kids, and “extended family event”.

There are many star parties these days across the country, all done very nicely….but there is one and only one Stellafane, whose focus remains telescope making, and which has a rich history. 

Stellafane was founded in 1926 by Russell Porter with the Springfield Telescope Makers and with help from the Boston ATMoB. 

Its purpose was to teach how to make telescopes for the common man.  And prior to that, if an American wanted a telescope, it had to be shipped from Europe at a huge expense. By teaching all how to make them, costs became less of a issue. 

Scientific American took notice and published a string of articles about this back then, launching American Amateur Astronomy (and to some extent professional astronomy!) With this success, Russell Porter was noticed, and hired to work on the famed 200-inch Mount Palomar Telescope in California. 

Stellafane is a registered historical landmark.

I learned how to make telescopes from this group, and was encouraged to excel at every turn, build them bigger and better. We still give out awards for homemade telescopes to this day.  (I am in fact one of the mechanical judges, as well as the camp physician, which is my way of giving back)

I plan on attending for the rest of my life, and will never willingly miss a year.  This year, there was over a thousand attendees, and 35 telescope entries for judging.

Photos: 

1. Stellafane: Entry

2. Next generation being enticed, my Josephine (note her t-shirt says: “Forget princess, I want to be a rocket scientist”

3. Pink Clubhouse, historical registered landmark “The heavens declare the glory of God” on the roof trim.

4. Inside the Pink, oozes with history:  Images from Mt Palomar construction, images from Mt Wilson, and much more…)

5. The porter Turret telescope, was built by Russell Porter for cold Vermont winters.  The mirror sits on the boom and the focus is Inside the building

6. Bert Willard inside the porter scope (In 1979 I bought my first large mirror blank at Stellafane from him, a 16-inch blank, spent 4 years as a resident grinding and building a portable 16-inch scope. I had built an 8-inch as a teenager, but this one cemented my love of astronomy

7. Flanders Paviliion:  Talks are held here. 

8. McGreggor Observatory with roll-off roof. 

9. Shupman Telescope: This is the largest Shupman in the world…a 13-inch marvel.  Nothing on this planet, I have ever viewed through equals this scope. It was designed and built by Scott Milligan, the same lens designer who designed my 32-inch telescope. You need to see Jupiter Mars and Saturn through this one. Voyager like viewing!

10 Simoni Observatory: Newest at Stellafane, a solar heliostat, you sit in the building and observe in H-alpha.

11. Many scopes observing field.

12. McGreggor, the field, and the relatively new dome for handicapped individuals. 

stellafane

next generation- (josephine and me)

pink

inside the Pink

the porter

 

bert willard in the porter

Flanders Pavillion

McGreggor

shupman

simoni observatory

observing field

scopes and mcgregor.jpg

Mario Motta