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.     


      I became interested in astronomy in the mid-60’s at the age of twelve. One of my older brothers had purchased a 60mm EQ refractor.      

     I grew up in the foothills of North Carolina, in a very rural area.  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.     

     It wasn’t until the mid-70’s that I acquired my very own telescope, a 4 1/4-inch Edmund Newtonian EQ reflector.  This was not my first choice, as I really wanted the 6-inch Super Space Conquerer, but the 4 1/4-inch was the best my budget would allow at that time.    

     However, by this time the fabulous skies of my early years were gone.  I’d moved to an area packed with houses and street lights, but I made the best of the situation and continued to observe.     

     In 1985 a local astronomy club was formed and I became a member with my youngest son, Brad.  This got me back into astronomy after a five year hiatus.  It was Brad that wanted to join the astronomy club.  I’m glad he did.      

      In 1992 I became a much more serious observer, with a new 10-inch EQ Meade reflector.  And fortunately by this time, I was also living in a much darker area.  I began making pencil sketches, which really helped me to become a far better visual observer.  

     I am the co-founder of the Observer’s Challenge report, along with Fred Rayworth of Las Vegas.  The Observer’s Challenge is 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 challenge report will celebrate its 15th year in 2023.   All of the reports to-date are included in the following link.

      In October 2018, Sue French, “Contributing Editor” for “Sky & Telescope Magazine” became the Observer’s Challenge special advisor, after many years as a participant.  Sue wrote the very popular monthly “Deep-Sky Wonders” column for twenty years.  As of November 2019, Sue has agreed to help compile and edit the challenge report.  

     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 (February 2016, Pages 54-57) and the Las Vegas Review Journal and other publications.


Saturday morning bike ride, which has been a fairly regular event…weather permitting for many years. This was today (August 6th 2022) with my good friends.

Left to right: Mike Ribadeneyra, Mike Keeley, myself, and Todd Anderson.

The Highest “Official” Recorded Temperature In The World Was Set In Death Valley, California: July 10, 1913

Posted November 24, 2022 by rogerivester
Categories: Roger's Articles

My son and granddaughter make frequent trips from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, traveling through Baker, California, via I-15.

Baker is best known for having the tallest thermometer in the world at 134 feet, and considered the gateway to Death Valley.

The thermometer was built to commemorate the “official world” record setting temperature of 134º F, set in nearby Death Valley on July 10, 1913. A record that still stands to this day.

Brad and Zoe took the following photo of the thermometer during a trip on Tuesday, November 22, 2022. The temperature as shown on the thermometer at the time they were there….was a cold 30º F.

Surprising! It gets cold in the desert also!

Roger Ivester

NGC 7184 Galaxy in Aquarius: November 2022 Observer’s Challenge Report #166

Posted November 17, 2022 by rogerivester
Categories: Work File Only - Observer's Challenge Reports

Work-File: Used only for organization and editing. When all entries are received (December 8th) and a final .pdf report will be issued by the 10th.

Roger Ivester: Observer from North Carolina

Object: Galaxy NGC 7184 in Aquarius

Date: October 14th 2022

Telescope: 10-inch f/4.5 EQ Newtonian 

Sketch Magnification: 104x

Field-of-View: 0.79º

Difficult and faint due to observing from my suburban back yard, over-looking the city of Boiling Springs.  I was using a light block curtain, to shield a pesky LED streetlight, to the east, about 1/4 mile away. The curtain eliminated that problem, but still looking over a light dome, due to its southerly position.  

Description:  Elongated slash, oriented NE-SW with a brighter central core, and a stellar nucleus.  With averted vision, I could see faint extensions arms, but only intermittently. 

Pencil Sketch as following:

“Keeping the ancient art of pencil sketching alive, for now and in the future of amateur astronomy.”

Mario Motta: Observer from Massachusetts

Taken with my 32-inch f/6.5, one hour Luminance, then one hour Blue, 30 mins. green, and 45 mins. red filters. I tried H alpha, but the signal was poor in that filter, so was not included in processing.

Taken with ZWO ASI6200 camera.

Phil Orbanes: Observer from Massachusetts

This barred spiral galaxy is at least 100 million light years in distance, therefore it is twice as far as the galaxies in the Virgo Cluster, such a M84 and M86. It is only 6.0″ x 1.5″ in size. However, it is thought to be 175,000 light years in size, making it larger than the Andromeda Galaxy.

My photo, which is enlarged from the original, includes 16 hours of imaging with  my 14-inch Planewave Reflector and FLI 16803 CCD camera. This includes five hours each via  R, G, B,  filters and 1 hour of H II. (I stopped the H II run when I realized I was not collecting any unique data.)

Larry McHenry: Observer from Pittsburgh

Galaxy NGC7184 is located in the fall zodiacal constellation of Aquarius – “The Water Bearer.”

The barred spiral is about 100 million light years distant, and is about 175,000 light-years in size. 

NGC 7184 was discovered on the night of October 28, 1783 by William Herschel using his 20-ft reflector, 

(with an  18.5-inch speculum-metal mirror), during his first full night of using his newly completed telescope in the back garden of his house, located in the small village of Datchet, about a mile from Windsor Castle. Herschel described the object as: “Faint, considerably large, much extended, brighter in the middle. Easily resolvable”. NGC 7184 was the first deep-sky object discovered by William Herschel using his system of ‘sweeping the sky’ and became the first object of Herschel’s Class-II – “Faint Nebulae” which consists mostly of galaxies.


On 09/20/2022, from Cherry Springs State Park at the Black Forest Star Party.  

Using an 8-inch SCT optical tube @ f/6.3 on a GEM mount, with a CMOS color camera and broadband filter, 180-second guided exposure, live-stacked for 30 minutes, image cropped. 

Using EAA techniques, the 11th mag NGC 7184 displays as an elongated, inclined mottled spiral with a bright oval core surrounded by a distinct circular ‘arm’ wrapping like a ring around the sides and foreground of the large core.

A Look Back Almost 60 Years. I Was In The Center With The Cowboy Hat, With My Two Older Brothers, Jimmy And Phillip. Photo’s Made With A Popular Camera Of The Day…Polaroid.

Posted November 15, 2022 by rogerivester
Categories: Roger's Articles

This “country dune-buggy” was ahead of its time for the local area. I was only 10 years old at the time, but would ride with my brothers in the fields, crossing creeks and driving as fast as possible on our dirt road.

A 1951 Studebaker body was removed, and everything else down to the frame, and engine. The frame was shortened three-feet, along with the drive-shaft.

This vehicle (the bug as we called it) provided quite a few years of fun. However, it was surprising or should I say “amazing” that either one “or three” brothers were not killed!

It had no seat belts, nor a roll-cage!

The school bus in the background was driven by another brother, 17-year old Donnie. In those days, students drove the school buses. When I was 16, I drove a school bus also. It was perfect! I needed a ride to school, and the county provided me with a bus and paid me! What a great deal, or so I thought so at that time.

However, the rate-of-pay was pretty poor, especially considering I was responsible for the safety of 30 to 40 students. To my knowledge, there was never a problem with students driving school buses.

We had to go through training for about a month or so before becoming certified, and receiving our bus license.

IC 342: Galaxy In Camelopardalis, Difficult For The Visual Observer Without A Dark-Site

Posted October 26, 2022 by rogerivester
Categories: Roger's Articles

Mario Motta:  Observer from Massachusetts

This is a very difficult object visually, very faint surface brightness, due in-part to its large size and attenuation from outer spiral arms.The following image was made using my 32-inch f/6.5 telescope, with ASI 6200 camera. Total of 40 subs 5 minutes each,of Lum, R,G,B filters, and then 50 minutes of H alpha as well to bring out the surprisingly large number of H alpha regions you can see. Processing in Pixinsight, used especially modern processing techniques of Starnet 2, that allows “removing” foreground stars to enable processing the faint background, then adding the stars back in. (without this, nearly impossible to process properly).

Roger Ivester:  Observer from North Carolina

IC 342, is a faint galaxy in Camelopardalis, and can be very difficult for the visual observer, due in-part to the low surface brightness and large size, requiring a dark sky with excellent transparency.  

I made all observations with a 10-inch reflector from my moderately light-polluted suburban backyard.  On a 5.0 NELM night, I located and observed this galaxy rather easily.  A chain of six stars, with an orientation of NW-SE, lies a few minutes SW of the faint core. 

This galaxy is best observed with low to medium magnification.  I used 114x for the following pencil sketch. The 10-inch presented IC 342 as little more than a large faint glow without structure.  A faint and small core could be seen with averted vision, with the absence of visible detail being attributed to the lack of a dark site, which reduced the contrast significantly.  

On a night of lesser seeing and transparency, I was unable to see this galaxy with my 102mm refractor.

James Dire:  Observer from Illinois 

IC 342 is one of the most unique galaxies in the heavens due to its orientation, size and brightness. It’s a face-on spiral galaxy approximately 20 arc-minutes in diameter and glows at mag 9.67. Because of its size, brightness and orientation, it’s very hard to see visually. It spans only 1/3 the distance across as the face-on spiral M33 in the constellation Triangulum, which is 35 times brighter.  So M33 is easier to see in a telescope.  

IC 342 has about the same total luminosity as M100, a face-on spiral galaxy residing in Coma Berenices, however, since it spans three times the diameter as M100, but M100 is much easier to see visually. 

The only face-on spiral galaxy with the same angular size that comes to mind is M101 in Ursa Major.  However, M101 is 5 times brighter, so big light buckets reveal M101’s spiral arms with much greater ease. 

IC 342 lies in the northerly constellation Camelopardalis.  It is slightly southwest of the midpoint between two mag. 4.5 stars, Gamma Camelopardalis and BE Camelopardalis. The two stars are 5.75° apart

To see IC 342 in its splendor requires a long exposure with an astronomical camera. The galaxy is classified as a weakly barred and loosely wound spiral galaxy. 

The Hubble classification SABc. (S means spiral, AB means weekly barred, and c means loosely wound spiral arms). In barred spiral galaxies, the spiral arms usually originate at the ends of the bar. On IC 342, there appear to be two spiral arms originating from each end of the galactic bar. The arms tend to fan out as one traces them away from the bar. My image of IC 342 as following, was taken January 6, 2010 at the Wildwood Pines Observatory in Earl, NC. 

I used an SBIG ST-2000XCM CCD camera, operating at -20°C, attached to a 190mm (7.5-inch) f/5.3 Maksutov-Newtonian telescope. The exposure was 60 minutes.

Sue French:  Observer from New York

“Deep-Sky Wonders” P-15.

“….105mm scope at 28x, this pretty galaxy is a vaporous phantom spangled with faint stars.  It appears oval, its long dimension running north and south with a 12′.  From a dark-sky site with his 105mm refractor, noted observer Stephen  O’Meara has been able to trace out IC 342’s three main spiral arms.” 

The following pencil sketch was made using a 10-inch reflector at 88x.

Christian Luginbuhl and Brian Skiff: “Observing Handbook and Catalog of Deep-Sky Objects”

“….Large galaxy is relatively easy to see in small apertures at low powers. In 6 cm it is a faint blob north of a loose clustering of stars.”

“…25 cm a string of six stars runs SE-NW through where the object is seen in 6 cm.”

The Sun Today (Wednesday, October 19th 2022) And (October 20th) By Guest Host: Mario Motta

Posted October 19, 2022 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

Telescope: Coronada 90mm solar scope, ASI071 MC camera video, processed with Autostakkert, then imPPG, then NAFE, finally Pixinsight.

New image for….”an even more fabulous event” occurring on the sun today at the bottom of this page! Thursday October 20th 2022.

Supplemental Photo as following…The Sun Today: Thursday October 20th 2022

I took an image again, even better than yesterday, more prominences, and.. while observing first I saw a FLARE for the first time.. started fading fast so set up camera and got the tail end of it.

The flare is “white hot spot” along the solar limb at about “7 o’clock”.. was even more impressive when it burst.

Along the upper limb 2 large prominences with great detail, and many smaller prominences all around the solar limb. One sunspot near the center of the sun, with nice magnetic field lines around it, and finally nice prominences along the face of the sun on the left seen on front face of the sun.

A lot going on today, again, really zoom in for the detail on this!

Taken with my 90mm Coronado SolarMax II scope, 2 min video collection, 25 % of frames used of 5,000 frames. ZWO ASI 071 camera, processed autostakker, imPPG, NAFE, then pixinsight.

Mario Motta

M39: Open Cluster In Cygnus – October 2022 Observer’s Challenge Report #165

Posted October 19, 2022 by rogerivester
Categories: Work File Only - Observer's Challenge Reports

Complete Report: Click on the following link:

Already Set-Up And Waiting To Observe Tonight. Planning Another Look At The Helix Nebula, After 30 Years. Also Hoping For My First View Of Galaxy, NGC 7184 In Aquarius, Which Is The November 2022 Observer’s Challenge Object

Posted October 15, 2022 by rogerivester
Categories: Roger's Articles

August 29th, 1992 and now 30 years ago:

Attending Observers:

Tom English, Chris Glaves, Tom Greene, Ken Vassey, Charlie Rhoden, Bob Eskridge, David Brooks and his son, and myself met at the Guffey Site for an observing session that lasted till the early morning hours. There was a lot of moisture, and even some fog, but it was still a worthy night.Two people that observed that night have since passed away:

Charlie Rhoden: Cyclist and former NC State Road Racing Champion for five years, and also a multiple year, Time Trial Champion. He was a licensed Pharmacist and Drug Store owner. His cause of death was Pulmonary Fibrosis. No one really knows what causes this disease, but I would never have thought that Charlie would die of a lung disease. He was indeed a world-class cyclist, and someone that I rode thousands of miles with over the years.

Tom Greene: A great guy and a maintenance engineer at the local Celanese Plant. Tom died of a heart attack.

Telescopes at the August 1992 observing session:

Celestron C-8, Coulter 10-inch, 16-inch Dob, 14.5-inch Dob, 13.1-inch Coulter Dob, and my 10-inch f/4.5 EQ reflector.

The Guffey Site is a pasture, with planted grass used to bale and feed cows. It is a fairly dark location, with an excellent southern view.

It was during this session that I made my first observation of the Helix Nebula. I was using my 10-inch reflector, using magnifications of (26 mm EP @ 44x) and also (9 mm @ 127x) with and without a UHC filter.

It’s always good to document your observing sessions, not only the deep-sky objects observed, but who was there also observing…if anyone, and/or what’s happening in the world. It will make some interesting reading for the future.

The nebula exceeded my expectations, after wanting to see it for at least a couple of years. So tonight I hope to see the Helix again. But my primary target tonight is galaxy NGC 7184, which is very close to the Helix.

Plans to observe the Helix Nebula, and galaxy NGC 7184 tonight. Saturday, October 15th 2022:

I already have my 10-inch set-up in the back yard, but having to use my “much smaller” and manual mount.

Photos below…Ready for tonight: I have always found that I do my best, when everything is set-up and ready several hours before sunset.

NGC 7184, might be difficult to find from my suburban back yard due to the sparse number of stars in the field. This would be the perfect object for my GoTo mount, but far too heavy to take into the yard.

10:49 PM, Saturday October 15th 2022: The Helix Nebula, and galaxy NGC 7184.

I was able to see the Helix, which was my first time in 30 years. Very large, irregular texture, with a “puffy” appearance. I used a 20mm Erfle eyepiece with a UHC filter. The nebula was invisible without the filter.

It was amazing that I could see the Helix from my backyard, looking over the city of Boiling Springs.

I also used an 11mm EP without a filter to plot the stars encompassing the nebula, and also embedded stars.

Note: I’ll share my sketch of the Helix later, which is my first. Unfortunately, I didn’t make a sketch from that pasture, known as the Guffey Site in August 1992.

I was able to see galaxy, NGC 7184:

The galaxy was extremely difficult, mostly due to the far southerly position. However, I could see it was elongated, oriented NE-SW. The core was very bright, but the surrounding halo was extremely faint, requiring averted vision, and then….only intermittently.

More on this galaxy later….including my sketch.

October: A Special Month, Cooler Days, Frosty Nights, Colorful Leaves, Jackets Or Coats, Perfect To Observe Old Friends With A Telescope.

Posted October 14, 2022 by rogerivester
Categories: Roger's Articles

October 1965 at 12 years old:

Shortly after sunset, I would notice a small cluster of stars rising above the tree tops in the east.  It would take me a while, but I did learn that it was the “Pleiades” or M45.

My first deep-sky object…”celestial objects beyond the solar system” such as galaxies, nebulae, and star clusters. This began my interest in astronomy, which I continue still today.

Just a little information, concerning my very first deep-sky object and a car company. Most all reading this are aware of this fact, but some possibly may not be.

In Japan, this cluster is known as “Subaru” which is the namesake of the car company.  The background of the Subaru emblem is most always blue, as to represent the “very hot” blue stars of the cluster.   

October 1967 and 55 years ago:  

I gave my first astronomy presentation to my 8th grade science class, using my brother’s 60mm equatorial refractor.  

The subject and title was:  “How To Use An Astronomical Telescope.” I was really a hit with my classmates, even if it only lasted for the remainder of the day. 

Such pleasant memories from October 1965 and October 1967.

Double Stars: The “Now Lost Facet” Of Amateur Astronomy, And A Unitron Refractor Advertisement.

Posted October 4, 2022 by rogerivester
Categories: Roger's Articles

Double and Multiple Stars:

This once very popular facet of amateur astronomy from years past…now has only a very small following.

An advertisement by Unitron from December 1975 at the bottom:  

This ad from 1975, caused me to begin thinking about double stars, along with other sources.  I could never separate Zeta Herculis with a 3-inch telescope, as described in the following.  Has anyone reading this…resolved this double, using a 3 or 4-inch telescope?  

Unitron 3-inch Model 140:

….on the night of August 24 I resolved Zeta Herculis, components 3.0 and 6.5 magnitudes and a separation of 1.3 arc seconds. I not only resolved the stars, but observed clear dark sky between the two components.

Then on the early morning of August 25 I resolved the star Eta Orionis its separate components 3.8 and 4.8 magnitudes of 1.4 arc second separation. It resolved beautifully under magnifications of 131x and 171x as had Zeta Herculis the night before.   R.C. New Mexico 

The Deer Lick Galaxy Group and Deerlick Gap Overlook, Little Switzerland, North Carolina

Posted October 2, 2022 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

We had an incredibly beautiful day yesterday (October 5th, 2020) so Deb and I (and Sophie too) decided on a trip to Mount Mitchell (North Carolina) which is the highest peak, east of the Mississippi…@ 6,684 ft.

When coming back down the mountain to eat dinner with friends (Mike & Rhonda and their Dachshund, Peta) in Little Switzerland, we stopped at the Deerlick Gap Overlook.

I have always considered this a “very famous” location for amateur astronomers, and professionals alike.

The “Deer Lick Galaxy Cluster” in Pegasus:

Finally the “definitive” story of how the name came about:

It has nothing to do with the appearance of the galaxies, but from the location where they were observed from…on one special night, in the early 80’s by the late Tom Lorenzin.

So here is the story:

Friend and amateur astronomer (author of 1000+ The Amateur Astronomer’s Field Guide to Deep-Sky Observing)…

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