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.  

First, to make it easier to locate the latest Observer’s Challenge report, and all reports to-date, I’m including the following link:


      I first became interested in astronomy in the mid-60’s at the age of twelve. One of my brothers had purchased a 60mm 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 a lot to learn, which continues to this day, more than 50 years later.      

     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 I found amateur astronomy to be difficult at that time, due to my lack of knowledge on the subject.  However, it was fun just being outside with a 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 nights 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 to me.  

     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 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 60mm 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 EQ reflector, 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. 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, while 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.  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, I can still feel that excitement.  That night, I went to bed smiling, and in my mind, I was now a real amateur astronomer!    

Getting Serious:

     There would be many other nights of success and failure in the years to follow.  However, in 1992 I became a much more serious observer, making systematic observations of deep-sky objects.  In February of that year, I purchased a new 10-inch Meade model DS-10A, equatorially mounted reflector, which 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, so I began taking copious notes on all the 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 see more, which helped make me a far better visual observer.  

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

     My first recorded notes were very 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 either.  I suppose that sketchers and astrophotographers are very much alike in this regard…always striving for something better.   


     I am 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 12th year in 2020.    

     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” article for twenty years.  She is also the author of two deep-sky observing books:  “Celestial Sampler” and “Deep-Sky Wonders” which are great books, especially for the visual observer.  Both are available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

     As of November 2019, Sue has agreed to help compile and edit the challenge report.  

 Mount Potosi Observing Complex in Southern Nevada: 

     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.

Mount Potosi, and the plane crash: 

     An infamous mountain due to the tragic 1942 TWA plane crash (DC-3 Luxury Liner) killing all 22 souls on-board.  Both the propellers were spinning when the plane hit the rock cliff of Mount Potosi at 185 mph.  

Propellers spinning:  

     This is important, as there was an FBI investigation to determine if the plane might have been sabotaged, and exploded before hitting the cliff.  The propellers operating during impact, discounted the sabotage theory.  

     It was a clear, but moonless night, and the cause was later attributed to pilot error. 

The following are some very interesting links concerning Mount Potosi, and the Observing Complex:

     Astronomy blogger since 2010.  


     Long time cyclist with almost 140,000 lifetime miles.   

IC 348 – Open Star Cluster Plus Nebula – Perseus – January 2021 Observer’s Challenge Report #144

Posted January 2, 2021 by rogerivester
Categories: Work File Only - Observer's Challenge Reports

Compiled by:

Roger Ivester, North Carolina 


Sue French, New York

January 2021

Report #144

IC 348 – Cluster plus Nebula in Perseus

Sharing Observations and Bringing Amateur Astronomers Together

This month’s target

During his term as the first director of Dearborn Observatory, Truman Henry Safford discovered IC 348 on December 1, 1866, with the observatory’s 18.5-inch refractor. Safford published his observation in a table of objects found at Dearborn in the years 1866–1868. The table uses the alphabet-soup notation common to the era, which decrypted means: very large, very gradually brighter in the middle, pretty bright. Additionally, a note below that section of the table describes the object as “A loose cluster with nebula.” The combo appeared in the First Index Catalogue.

IC 348 has the dubious honor of bearing two IC designations. Edward Emerson Barnard independently discovered the nebula in 1893, and it was placed in the Second Index Calalogue as IC 1985, without anyone tumbling to the fact that it was already in the previous IC catalog. Unlike Safford, Barnard didn’t note the existence of the cluster within the nebula. 

IC 348 is thought to be roughly 1000 light-years away and a youthful 2–3 million years old. It holds about 500 stars, with brightest being hot, blue-white stars on the main sequence. The cluster’s visual magnitude is 7.3. By Sue French

Sue French: Observer from New York

Through my 105-mm refractor at 153×, the little star cluster IC 348 shows 10 stars mostly gathered into a 5′ oval ring. If I keep Omicron (ο) Persei out of the field, I can faintly see nebulosity enveloping the brightest star and the two stars closest to it. A third star sits on the nebula’s western edge. The brightest star (magnitude 8.8) and the one to its northeast (magnitude 10.3) form the visible Σ439 AB-C pair. The A and B components are only 0.6″ apart, which is too snug for my little refractor to split. Σ437 sits a short distance west-southwest of the oval ring in the same field of view, its stars closely matched at magnitudes 9.8 and 10.0. 

Through my 10-inch reflector at 115×, the blended AB component of Σ439 looks white, and its wide companion appears yellow. The stars of Σ437 seem white and pale yellow to my eyes. The brightest and largest piece of nebulosity is visible around Σ439 and a small, dimmer patch cocoons the southernmost star in the cluster. Very faint nebulosity envelopes and connects these patches, extending farther east than west.

Mario Motta: Observer from Massachusetts

This is 90 min, about 30 mins each Red/green/blue through the 32-inch scope, asi6200 camerainteresting in that I thought was mostly a reflection nebula, but the nebula is both red and some blue, so must be both reflection and some emission.

I intentionally put bright star Omicron, to the north, just out of the field to prevent it from overwhelming the image. That star is very blue and bright, and it must be ionizing some of the nebula.

Click on photos, images and sketches to enlarge:

Roger Ivester: Observer from North Carolina

IC 348, open cluster in Perseus enveloped with nebulosity:  

Just to the south of bright star Omicron Persei (apparent visual magnitude 3.8) lies the sparse and scattered open cluster IC 348, which contains about 10 mostly dim stars.   

When using my 10-inch reflector at a magnification of 114x with averted vision, and much patience and field motion (lightly tapping the telescope) I could see some faint nebulosity surrounding areas of the cluster.  This effort required over an hour of careful observing to finally see sections of the nebula.  

It’s was necessary to move Omicron out of the field to see the nebulous areas within the cluster.  

The nebulosity was extremely difficult with the most concentrated area being in the NE region, surrounding the wide and uneven double star, Struve 439.  This double is actually a triple, but the third component is far too close for most back yard telescopes.   

Another double, Struve 437 is a beautiful equal pair of white magnitude 10 stars located on the SW edge of the cluster. 


James Dire: Observer from Illinois

IC 348 is the catalog number of a galactic star cluster and a reflection nebula on the southern edge of the constellation Perseus. IC 348 is very easy to find. About 8 degrees due north of the Pleaides lay two naked-eye stars: Zeta Persei (magnitude 2.9) and Omicron Persei (magnitude 3.9).  Omicron Persei is also known as Atik.  IC 348 lies just south of Atik.

The IC 348 star cluster is small, about 8 arcminutes in diameter. The cluster contains maybe a dozen or two stars bright enough to see in small telescopes. It lies 1260 light years away and has an integrated magnitude of 7.3.  The brightest star “appearing” in the cluster is HD281159 at magnitude 8.7.  HD is a double star with the dimmer star shining at magnitude 10.3. They are separated by 23.7 arcseconds.  The primary is actually two 9th magnitude stars separated by 0.5 arc seconds and difficult to resolve in most amateur telescopes. HD281159 is actually a foreground star system to the star cluster.

The IC 348 reflection nebula is approximately 10 arcminutes in size and is located 718 light years away.  The HD281159 star system is embedded in the nebula.  It’s light illuminates the nebula.

Seeing IC 348 was very difficult this month as there were no clear cloudless nights.  January is the cloudiest month in Central Illinois.  I did mange to image IC 348 on a rare clear night close to the first quarter moon phase.

The attached image was taken with a 132mm f/7 William Optics triplet refractor with a 0.8x focal reducer/field flattener.  I used an SBIG ST-4000XCM CCD camera. This camera has a color chip, so I did not use any filters.  The exposure was 90 minutes. In this image, north is up and east to the left.

The bright star in the center is Atik.  The second brightest star, near the left edge is magnitude 6.7 HD23478. The orange star between them is magnitude 7.9 HD23322.  The IC 348 star cluster is just below Atik. As can be seen, it is a very loose cluster.

The double star HD281159 is located in the brightest part of the nebula, just south and a little east of Atik.  The nebula covers most of the cluster’s foreground and extends all the way up to the east side of Atik.

Note the lack of stars to the south and southwest of Atik. This region, devoid of many stars, is also apparent at the eyepiece.  It is due to a large dark nebula known LDN1470. This dark nebular region extends over an area 2 x 2 degrees.  The portion captured in my field of view is the northeast corner. Regions of LDN1472 are cataloged under such names as Barnard 3, Barnard 4, LDN1468, and LDN1470. 

Longer exposures of IC348 show much more of the reflection nebula and better contrast with the dark nebula. Perhaps on a future clear, moonless night, I’ll be able to take more images of this region.

Glenn Chaple: Observer from Massachusetts

IC 348 is a star-forming region in Perseus, located just 7 arc-minutes south and slightly east of the magnitude 3.8 star omicron (ο) Persei. It contains several hundred stars, most of which are too faint to be seen with typical backyard scopes. The cluster illuminates the surrounding reflection nebula VdB 19. Visually, a small-aperture scope will capture a dozen or so of the brighter cluster members, while the nebulosity mandates medium to large apertures and a dark-sky location.  

In her book Deep-Sky Wonders, Sue French mentions a triple star, Σ439, and a double star, Σ437, that are associated with IC 348. In most scopes, Σ439 appears as a magnitude 8.8 and 10,3 double separated by 23.4”. The brighter star is actually a tight binary system (BD+31°643) whose magnitude 9.3 and 9.5 components, both hot B5-type main sequence stars, are just 0.6” apart. Σ437 is a near twin system comprised of magnitude 9.8 and 10.0 stars separated by 11.4”.

IC 348 is a young open cluster, perhaps no more than 2 million years old. Cluster and nebula are 900 to 1000 light years away.

Uwe Glahn: Observer from Germany

IC 348

27-inch reflector @ 172x

NGC 1893, IC 405, IC 410

20 x 125 Binoculars

3º Field of View

IC 410 (NGC 1893)

27-inch reflector @ 172x

Larry McHenry: Observer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

January:  IC 348 – Cluster & Reflection Nebula – Perseus; Mag. V=7.3;  Size 8′ 

RA:  03h 45m  Dec.  +32° 10′  

IC 348 is located in the fall constellation of Perseus – ‘The Hero” near +3.8 mag Omicron Persei (Atik).

This 7th magnitude deep-sky object is a sparse open star cluster embedded in a faint reflection nebula cataloged as Vdb19. The nebula is difficult to observe visually due to the nearby bright star. The star cluster, also known as Collinder 41, contains around 12 stars visible to amateur astronomers, but has close to 288 stars in total with over 20 identified as brown dwarfs.  It is about 1,028 light years distant, and about 2 million years old. 

Video-Capture:  10/08/2010 from rural location near Mansfield, OH at the Hidden-Hollow star party, using an 8-inch SCT optical tube @ f/6.3 on a CG-5 mount, using a StellaCam-3 analog video-camera @ 45 seconds, unguided single exposure.

The visual screen sketch as following was made in January 2021 from Big Woodchuck Observatory, backyard in Pittsburgh, PA.

Using an 8-inch SCT optical tube @ f/6.3 on a Atlas HQ6 mount, with a ASI294MC color camera and L-Pro filter @ 30-second guided exposure live-stacked for 2 minutes.

Barry Yomtov: Observer from Massachusetts

Here is my most recent image of IC 348. I am located in Marblehead, MA. The transparency started off ok (Jan 10, 2021), but deteriorated about two-thirds though my imaging session so I was able to only use 71 images. My equipment is the RASA 11 (f/2.2) with the Astrodon light pollution filter, and the ZWO ASI-183MC Pro CMOS camera. The total exposure was 41 minutes.

My Home Observatory Has Endured The Test of Time, But Is Now Improved. It Serves Multiple Purposes; One Being My Humble Observatory, a Sun Deck and for Blue Bird Watching

Posted December 7, 2020 by rogerivester
Categories: Roger's Articles

I started with just a deck, but over time, especially in the past couple years, I’ve tried to improve and make my observing site a bit darker, and I’ve been successful. At the zenith or overhead, on a good night, I can reach a 5.5 NELM. Not too bad for a location inside the city limits of a small town.

And with no ambient light shinning into my eyes.

You might wonder why I’ve not built a dome or roll-off roof observatory, after being an amateur astronomy for almost 50 years. The reason. My back yard is not worthy of a permanent structure.

For 35 years, I’ve been using my back deck for the majority of my observing. My house blocks ambient light from the south, but I needed to improve my overhead and northern views. I can observe anything from ~+12º north latitude, anything more southerly, I have to leave my deck and find the darkest spot in my back yard.

On the west side of my deck, I use a couple large sheets of black auto/marine fabric, with a backing that makes light impossible to penetrate.

I just “clothes-pin” it to a nylon rope, and when my session is complete, it’s very easy to take down, fold up and put away. It is similar to heavy duty “old time” tent canvas. It’s very thick, and is perfect for my use.

So for the past couple of years, I’ve been slowly adding various light blocks:

A couple weeks ago I added a small section to my current wooden light block petition, which now needs to be stained. And also a new small shed to block light, and for storage.

In my larger shed, I store my CGE-Pro Celestron mount, which is much too heavy to take in and out of the house. I also keep tools, counterweights, an astro-chair and other astronomy and non-astronomy equipment stored in this shed.

So, my point of this email: Regardless of where you observe, with street lights or neighbors, there is things you can do to improve your situation.

Star Trails Image: By Guest Hosts: Babak Tafreshi (Photographer) and Mario Motta

Posted December 2, 2020 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

Star Trails image at the residence of amateur astronomer Mario Motta, by renowned photographer, Babak Tafreshi.

Click on image to enlarge:

Babak Tafreshi is an award winning photographer working with the National Geographic, a master of night-time photography and nightscape videos. He used the context of night sky to bridge Earth and sky, art and science, cultures and time. He is also a science journalist and the founder of The World at Night (TWAN) program; an elite group of about 40 photographers in 25 countries who present images to reconnect people with importance and beauties of the night sky and natural nights (since 2007).

Born in 1978 in Tehran he is based in Boston, United States, but could be anywhere on the planet, chasing stories from the Sahara to the Himalayas or Antarctica. He is also a contributor to Sky&Telescope magazine, the European Southern Observatory (ESO), and a board member of Astronomers Without Borders organization, an international organization to bridge between cultures and connect people around the world through their common interest to astronomy. He received the 2009 Lennart Nilsson Award, the world’s most recognized award for scientific photography, for his global contribution to night sky photography.

As a science journalist he has contributed to many television and radio programs on astronomy and space exploration specially when living in Iran. He was the editor of the Persian astronomy magazine (Nojum) for a decade and been involved with various science education and outreach programs.

Babak started photography of the night sky above natural landscapes and historic architecture in early 1990s when he was a teenager. He has always been fascinated by the universality of the night sky; the same sky appearing above different landmarks of the world. Photography, science stories, and eclipse chasing has taken him to the 7 continents.

M76 – Planetary Nebula in Perseus – December 2020 Observer’s Challenge Report: #143

Posted November 29, 2020 by rogerivester
Categories: Work File Only - Observer's Challenge Reports

Compiled by:

Roger Ivester, North Carolina 


Sue French, New York

December 2020

Report #143

M76, Planetary Nebula in Perseus

Sharing Observations and Bringing Amateur Astronomers Together






My Ultimate Image Of The Horsehead Nebula: By Guest Host, Mario Motta

Posted November 24, 2020 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

I did a 4 hour exposure (32-inch telescope) of the horsehead using 6 filters. Ten days I ago spent 4 hours obtaining a new horsehead nebula. This is using 6 filters, red, green, blue, but also Ha, S2 and O3. Using narrowband is tricky for color balance but using the RGB helped that out, and got the intrinsic resolution enhancement of the narrow band filters. Been busy, so finally processed this weekend. My previous image was eight years ago only RGB. There is significantly more detail in this image than my prior. I had to play with the six different filter stack sets to get just the right balance of detail and color.

If anyone wants to see my collection of over 600 images, broken into messier, NGC, IC, etc, go to:

Thank you, Mario Motta

NGC 278 – Galaxy in Cassiopeia – November 2020 Observers Challenge: #142

Posted November 15, 2020 by rogerivester
Categories: Work File Only - Observer's Challenge Reports

Compiled by:

Roger Ivester, North Carolina 


Sue French, New York

November 2020

Report #142

NGC 278, Galaxy in Cassiopeia

Complete report: Click on the following link


Reiland 1: Obscure Cluster Plus Nebula in Cepheus

Posted October 18, 2020 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

Earlier this year (Spring 2020) I was communicating with Tom Reiland of Pennsylvania. Tom was recently a recipient of the Astronomical League, Leslie Peltier award, and a lifelong amateur. He mentioned to me about a cluster in Cepheus which he discovered back in the 80’s, and was given the name, Reiland 1.

Right Ascension: 23h 04m.8″ Declination: +60º 05

The following image provided by Mario Motta from Massachusetts: 32-inch Reflector; 40 mins asi6200 camera

The following images Provided by James Dire of Illinois: 8-inch f/8 Ritchey-Chretien telescope with a 0.8x FR/FF and a SBIG ST-2000XCM camera. Exposure 60 minutes

An excellent report by Mike McCabe from Massachusetts: Click on the above link.

October 2020 New Moon In Jordan by Anas Sawallha: 19 Hours 36 Minutes

Posted October 18, 2020 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

I was happy to have received an email (September 17th) from my astronomy friend in Jordan, Ana Sawallha with this 19 hour 36 minute new moon photo. Thank you Anas.

NGC 7332/7339 Galaxy Pair in Pegasus: October 2020 Observer’s Challenge Report #141

Posted October 15, 2020 by rogerivester
Categories: Work File Only - Observer's Challenge Reports

Compiled by:

Roger Ivester, North Carolina 


Sue French, New York

October 2020

To view the complete report: Click on the following link…


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

Posted October 6, 2020 by rogerivester
Categories: Roger's Articles

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) the late Tom Lorenzin was observing from this overlook, with a few others from the Charlotte Amateur Astronomers Club.  

Tom was observing galaxy NGC 7331 in Pegasus, and on that night of  exceptional seeing and transparency, he made the following notes, taken from 1000+ of a very faint galaxy cluster, to the east of NGC 7331. 

NGC 7331: 10.4M; 10′ x 2.5′ extent; bright and much elongated edge-on spiral with stellar nucleus; axis oriented NNW-SSE; the Deer Lick group, a very faint triangle of 14+M GALs (N7335,6,40) is a few minutes E and a little N; “STEPHAN’S QUINTET” (soft glow of five very faint and distant GAL’s) is 30′ due S; good supernova prospect

From this extraordinary night this galaxy cluster, observed from the “Deerlick Gap Overlook” and Tom coined the name “The Deer Lick group” which stuck, and is known by both professional and amateur astronomers throughout the country and the world, as such.

A wide-field snapshot (below) from of the “Deer Lick galaxy group” and Stephan’s Quintet (compact galaxy cluster) to the south, at the bottom.

The large galaxy is NGC 7331, and the “Deer Lick Group” of galaxies are the small and very faint, mostly round galaxies to the east, or to the left of NGC 7331. A difficult group, best suited for larger amateur telescopes.

On excellent nights (NELM 5.2) using my 10-inch reflector from my moderately light polluted back yard, I can see the brightest member of the group, NGC 7335, requiring averted vision, but cannot hold constantly.

Stephan’s Quintet, the compact galaxy cluster is shown in the opening of the 1946 Christmas classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life” so be looking for it this year.

The following image provided by Mario Motta from Massachusetts using a 32-inch telescope of NGC 7331 and the very faint “Deer Lick Galaxy Cluster” to the E. North is up in this photo and W is to the right.

Mount Mitchell, not too far from Deerlick Gap Overlook

Grave of Elisha Mitchell (1793-1857) Scientist and professor. Died in an attempt to prove this mountain was the highest in the eastern United States