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, Jim 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 did not 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.  







Reiland 1 – Nebulous Cluster In Cassiopeia, Also Known as Bergeron 1

Posted August 9, 2020 by rogerivester
Categories: Roger's Articles

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 Cassiopeia which he discovered back in the 80’s, and was given the name, Reiland 1.  

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

It’s been a pleasure getting to know Tom, who was introduced to me by James Mullaney several years ago.  

After Tom’s discovery of this nebulous cluster…years later in 1997, New York amateur Joe Bergeron, came across the cluster using a 6-inch reflector.  And was given the name, Bergeron 1.   

Sue French, tells the story in her DSW’s (big book) Pages 280-281…writing:  

“Bergeron 1 made its way into “Uranometria” after Joe Bergeron chanced upon it in 1997 with his 6-inch refractor.  He reported his find to some of the people who later assisted in the production of that atlas.  

“But an earlier account of it appeared in “Sky & Telescope” Magazine in November 1988.  Walter Scott Houston wrote that Tom Reiland had turned up the cluster while observing with his 8-inch Newtonian reflector in Pennsylvania.” 

“Reiland saw a half dozen stars crowded into 30” with some nebulosity.  Houston used a narrowband filter to help him spot the nebula.  As a result of that article, the group is also known as Reiland’s Object.  Reiland’s Nebulous Cluster, or simply Reiland 1.”  

“Examined with my 105mm refractor at 153x, Bergeron 1 is a very small hazy patch with a few extremely faint stars.  My 10-inch at 213x shows four or five stars in a tight group less than 1′ across.  The cluster is slightly elongated east-west and straddles a faint nebula.”   Sue French 

Source:  “Deep-Sky Wonders A Tour of the Universe” with Sky & Telescope’s Sue French  


After communicating with Tom, I became interested in seeing this nebulous cluster and made a note to make plans to observe this object.  At current Cassiopeia is rising in the NE later in the evening and early morning, and will be in very good position within the next month or so.  

I thought this would make a great group observing project.  At current there is little information concerning this faint and obscure nebulous cluster online, or seemingly anywhere else. 

Hopefully this observing project will propagate an interest in this cluster + nebula and allow it to be found via a “search” online.   And I’m especially interested in seeing this object for the first time.    Roger Ivester


The following notes and image by Mario Motta from Massachusetts  

OK, here you go, was up all last night (August 9th 2020) so took 45 mins. of this before bedtime between 3 and 4 am, got about 45 minute usable subs. This is very small and faint object! 

I framed so you can see IC 1470 at the top, and Reiland 1 at the bottom in the center.

I experimented a bit, using Ha, it enhanced IC 1470 quite a bit.. but wiped out the faint nebulosity of Reiland 1, so, I deleted those frames, which confirms that the nebula is a reflection and not an emission nebula.  

I started to use some color filters to see if blue would enhance, but the quarter moon was up…causing gradients, plus time was short.  So, this is luminance only filtered (just cuts infrared), stacked and some mild pushing in processing to bring out the faint reflection nebulosity. 

I think this will be a tough object for most observers, small and faint, and will need to use high magnification.  My field of view here is 15′ x 22′ for perspective…this object is smaller than an arc minute.  




James Dire:  Observer from Illinois

One hour exposure of Reiland 1 using 8-inch RC telescope.  Picked up a little of the nebula around the cluster.  I was also able to get IC 1470 in the field of view, too.  

Seeing was about 1.5 arc seconds (the detail on Jupiter was superb at 375x.)  Sky transparency was about magnitude 5.  Unfortunately, I was unable to see the cluster (visually) with my 5.2-inch apochromatic refractor.  

However, I could see the two bright stars to the west of the nebulous cluster, as seen in my photo that point toward it.  I’m sure I could see it with an 8 or 10-inch reflector.





National Moon Day, 51 Years Later: By Guest Host, James Mullaney

Posted July 20, 2020 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized


National Moon Day on July 20th commemorates the day man first walked on the moon in 1969. NASA reported the moon landing as being “…the single greatest technological achievement of all time.”

On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 carried the first humans to the moon. Six hours after landing on the moon, American Neil Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface. He spent two and a half hours outside the spacecraft. Buzz Aldrin soon followed, stepping onto the lunar surface. After joining Armstrong, the two men collected 47.5 pounds of lunar material. Their specimens would make the journey back to Earth to be analyzed. 


In 1971, President Richard Nixon proclaimed National Moon Landing Day on July 20th to honor the anniversary of man’s first moon landing. However, no continuing resolution followed.

Enter Richard Christmas. He took up the baton by launching a “Christmas Card” writing campaign. The Michigan native wrote to governors and members of Congress in all 50 states urging them to create National Moon Day. He achieved some success, too. By July of 1975, 12 states sponsored bills observing Moon Day.

Another modern-day supporter of National Moon Day is Astronomer James J. Mullaney. He knows a few things about the moon, too. As a former Curator of Exhibits and Astronomy at Pittsburgh’s original Buhl Planetarium, Mullaney is on a mission. He says, “If there’s a Columbus Day on the calendar, there certainly should be a Moon Day!” His goal is a federally recognized holiday.

In 2019, President Donald Trump proclaimed July 20th as the 50th Anniversary Observance of the Apollo 11 Lunar Landing. However, no National Moon Day has been declared. 

Comet NEOWISE: July 16, 2020

Posted July 17, 2020 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

I received the following digital images and visual description of Comet NEOWISE as following.  

Thank you for sharing…Roger Ivester


By Mario Motta from Massachusetts:   

My images of Comet NEOWISE, which I took last night (July 16th) after waiting two weeks for a clear sky!  

The wide field image was taken from my deck facing north, across the Ipswich bay, 10 sec exposure with a Nikon 7100 DSLR camera and a 70mm lens.  

The “close up” image was made using a 200mm lens for 15 seconds, as the comet has a two degree tail…actually two tails!  

One is the dust tail which has a yellowish/golden color, and the other being the ion tail which appears bluish.   

The comet was higher in sky last night (July 17th) so I was able to get a darker background. The following image of comet NEOWISE was stacking 10 images, and some light processing

Taken with a Nikon DSLR camera and 130mm telephoto lens, 10 sec subs at 5000 ASA

I managed to tweak out the blue ion tail in the image with the dust tail being yellow. 

Visually:  I could not see the ion tail, but with binoculars…only a hint. 

Mario Motta 


This following image from Monday night (7-20-2020) shows that the comet is clearly getting dimmer…last night even hard to see.

Stack of 25 images 15 sec each through Nikon at 130mm focal length asa set 5000.

Stacked and lightly processed. Image a bit noisy in the distant dust tail, because getting dimmer and S/N lower. If it gets a bit higher, I will switch to getting images of the comet head through my scopes (so far in the one part of the sky hidden by the peak of my roof in the north side of my observatory!)

Should have made the observatory 10 feet higher… 🙂

All images were taken with a camera mounted on a portable mount for tracking on my deck.   Mario Motta 



By Richard Nugent from Massachusetts

The following two Comet NEOWISE photos were made using a Sony DSC-HX1 camera. The wide field view had these settings: ISO 125; +0.3EV; f/2.8 and 15 second exposure. The closeup shot had these settings: ISO 800; +2.0EV; f/4.5 and 10 second exposure. 

As darkness fell, the comet became visible in 10 x 50 binoculars and then to the unaided eye. Visually, the comet appeared as a short, faint gash of light with a brighter, but still a faint head was visible. My best views were with the binoculars. The binoculars showed the prominent head and the tail which extended 3 to 4º’s upwards from the horizon.

I also had on hand a 3-inch Unitron refractor. While the comet’s head was quite prominent, but could not discern any detail. The dust tail was yellowish orange, likely due to the tail reflecting sunlight and the comet’s low altitude. I couldn’t see a shadow from the head, nor could I detect any fine detail in the tail. As the comet climbs higher in the sky, I’m hoping it will remain bright.

DSC04736 (2)


The “Great Lensnapping” By Guest Host: James Mullaney

Posted June 17, 2020 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

Roger, I don’t know how many of your readers have heard of the “Great Lensnapping” that happened at the original Allegheny Observatory in Pittsburgh in the late 1800s.  

My beloved 13-inch Fitz-Clark had it’s objective lens stolen and held for ransom.  At the time, it was the third largest in the world!  (Now it’s the third largest in the current Observatory.)   

Samuel Pierpont Langley was director at the time and refused to pay anything, as no telescope in the country would then be safe from theft.  He finally met the thief at a hotel in a Pittsburgh suburb – the thief agreed to return it if Langley didn’t prosecute.  He subsequently found it in a waste basket at that very hotel.  

The lens was pretty well scratched up and Langley sent it to Alvin Clark for refinishing.  Thus the dual name Fitz-Clark.  As I’ve stated before, it is without question the finest visual telescope I’ve ever seen or used bar none!

Messier 8: Nebula and Cluster in Sagittarius – July 2020 Observer’s Challenge Report #138

Posted June 11, 2020 by rogerivester
Categories: Work File Only - Observer's Challenge Reports

“Work-File” Report:  For organization only.  The following are all participants to-date.  The cut-off date for submissions is the 8th of the following month, and we try to issue the final report by the 10th.  


August 10, 2020 @ 6:00 PM:  Final report has been posted in the following link:       




Compiled by:

Roger Ivester, North Carolina


Sue French, New York

July 2020

Report #138

Messier 8, Nebula and Cluster in Sagittarius

Sharing Observations and Bringing Amateur Astronomers Together 


The purpose of the Observer’s Challenge is to encourage the pursuit of visual observing. It’s open to everyone who’s interested, and if you’re able to contribute notes, and/or drawings, we’ll be happy to include them in our monthly summary. Visual astronomy depends on what’s seen through the eyepiece. Not only does it satisfy an innate curiosity, but it allows the visual observer to discover the beauty and the wonderment of the night sky. Before photography, all observations depended on what astronomers saw in the eyepiece, and how they recorded their observations. This was done through notes and drawings, and that’s the tradition we’re stressing in the Observer’s Challenge. And for folks with an interest in astrophotography, your digital images and notes are just as welcome. The hope is that you’ll read through these reports and become inspired to take more time at the eyepiece, study each object, and look for those subtle details that you might never have noticed before.

This month’s target:  

Messier 8 is made up a historically confusing collection of star groups and nebulosity. According to expert NGC/IC researcher Dr. Harold Corwin: “NGC 6523 is the star-forming core of M8 at the heart of the bright northwestern part of the nebula. NGC 6526 is the southeastern part of the nebula, and NGC 6530 is the bright star cluster 10-12 arcmin following N6523.  NGC 6533 applies to the entire M 8 complex, and IC 1271 and IC 4678 apply to condensations in its eastern reaches.”

You can read more about these and many other items of interest at: and 

 2019 and 2020 journal papers involving parts of the M8 complex use distances from 4.1 to 4.3 thousand light-years.  


Sue French:  Observer from New York

I’ve sketched M8 on two occasions. I worked on my first sketch during two nights in 1997 with my 105mm (4.1-inch) refractor at 87×. I did not use a star diagonal, so this drawing has north up and west is to the right. My sketch paper back then left something to be desired. It took penciling very well, but was a bit yellowish and tended to look rumpled.


The second sketch was made in 2016 as seen through my130mm (5.1-inch) refractor at 48×, also on two nights. A narrowband (UHC) filter was used to help define the nebula, but no filter was used for the stars. The brightest star on the right-hand side of the sketch is 7 Sgr, which looked yellow through the scope. In this mirror-reversed view north is up and west is to the left. The small, butterfly-shaped region in the brightest part of the nebula is known as the Hourglass.



Mario Motta:  Observer from Massachusetts

For M8 it is large for my 32-inch, so I am sending two sets of images:  The first image is from my 32-inch which shows the center of the lagoon, and also highlights the star forming glow to the right of the lagoon itself, and the hourglass shape glow. 

This image taken with narrowband imaging Ha, O3, and S2, total about three hours.  Also Ha only as it shows detail, 1.5 hours

Next image an M8 wide field, taken with my 8-inch RC which was piggybacked on my scope. 

This is Lum, R,G,B filters, and also some Ha added to Lum and Red.  This is a total of about 3.5 hours imaging.    




Uwe Glahn:  Observer from Germany  

Objekt: Messier 8 “Lagunennebel”

Teleskop: 4″ Bino

Vergrößerung: 55x

Filter: [OIII]

Bedingungen: fst 6m5+

Seeing: III

Ort: Sudelfeld

M8 Uwe


 James Dire:  Observer from Illinois  

The Lagoon Nebula, a.k.a M8, a.k.a NGC6533 is a celestial complex that is quite often viewed by telescope owners from late spring into the early fall.  The complex can be seen naked eye in the darkest skies and offers something for every sized telescope.  The complex contains a star cluster, a star-forming region, dark nebulae, and lots of wispy emission nebulae. I have viewed it in every optical instrument I own from binoculars to a 14-inch f/6 Dobsonian reflector. Binoculars and small telescopes resolve the star cluster embedded on the east side of the nebula (NGC6530) and start to pick up the bright star-forming region (NGC 6523).  In my 14–inch Newtonian, the grandness of the entire nebula is visible!

My first image of M8 was taken with a Stellarvue 102mm f/6.3 apochromatic refractor with an SBIG ST-2000XCM CCD camera. The exposure was 80 minutes.  The nebula is dominated by hydrogen gas emissions at 656.3 nm.  Fortunately, my color CCD camera has great sensitivity at that wavelength.

Also herein is a black and white version of that image with the various regions of M8 labeled with their individual NGC or IC catalog numbers.  None of the dark nebulae are labeled, just the star cluster and the various brighter regions of the emission nebula.

The wide field shot includes both M8 and its neighbor M20, the Trifid Nebula. That was taken with a William Optics Star 71mm f/4.9 apochromatic refractor using an SBIG-STF-8300C CCD camera. That exposure was also 80 minutes.





Rony De Laet: Observer from Belgium

Messier 8 is one of my favorite summer objects. Unfortunately it never rises higher than 15° above the horizon from where I live. 

My first sketch was made in 2006 on a holiday location in Spain, where M8 culminates at 26°. The sketch is a compilation of a ‘normal’ view and a ‘UHC-filter’ view. The UHC shows the nebula better, because I was observing from a roof terrace in the middle of a small town. The nebula was larger than expected. It did not fit in the FOV of my eyepiece. The observation was made with a 105mm Maksutov-Cassegrain at a magnification of 62x.

North is up, West to the right:

M8_sketch Mak105_rdl


My second sketch was made in 2008, again on a holiday in Spain. This time I travelled to a dark location. I used a 15×70 binocular on a tripod.

M8 can be seen with the unaided eye as a small bright patch in the Southern Milky Way. M8 is even brighter than the famous Orion Nebula. The view with a pair of binoculars is spectacular. M8 appears as an elongated glowing cloud of gas, divided by a ‘dark’ river, running from NE to SW. The eastern part of the nebula contains the open cluster NGC 6530. About a dozen stars can be counted with 15×70 bino’s. The western part of the nebula harbors only a few bright stars, together with a small bright patch of light, the Hourglass Nebula. This small patch looks like an out of focus star. It is the brightest feature of the Lagoon. Larger telescopes will reveal its true shape. But the Lagoon has more treasures to offer as time goes by. The patient observer will be rewarded with the view of fainter nebulous extensions and delicate curls of dark lanes. Altogether, the Lagoon Nebula is a very complex diffuse body at a distant of 5200 l-y.

Messier 8 is accompanied by a few other objects. At one and a half degree NNE of M8, there is M20, the Trifid Nebula. A 40’ more to the north, the subtle glow of the open cluster M21 borders the edge of the field of view. At 1° SE of M8, I suspected the presence of globular cluster NGC 6544. The FOV of the sketch is 4.4°.


I made my last sketch on July the 20th of this year with a 16-inch Dobson. This time I observed from my bortle 5 backyard, where the southern horizon is filled with skyglow. A large telescope pulls in a lot of light, but in my case it also pulls in a lot of skyglow. When I located M8, the only thing I saw was a pale cluster and a hint of the hourglass. Things changed completely when I added an OIII filter to my eyepiece. The field of view was filled with luminous clouds of swirling gas, divided by a dark river, the Lagoon. M8 extends beyond the borders of my eyepieces. The most pleasing view was obtained at a magnification of 144x. I first drew the stars without the filter, then the nebulae with the use of the OIII filter.

Telescope: 16-inch f/4.5 truss Dobson

Eyepiece: 12.5mm 76° AF 

The fov is 32’



Roger Ivester:  Observer from North Carolina

 Messier 8, also known as the Lagoon nebula was the first object to be observed by John Mallas in the 1930’s.  Mallas authored “The Messier Album” along with Evered Kreimer.  I used this book extensively during my first quest to observe and document the Messier catalog during the 70’s, and I continue to use it often, even to this day. 

 Saturday night July 11, I observed M8 from my back yard, using a 6-inch f/6 Newtonian reflector.  Unfortunately, due to M8 being located so far south in the sky, makes it a difficult object for me, but could easily see the complex through my 8 x 50 finder.  

With the 6-inch and a magnification of 38x, I first sketched the small, but beautiful, star cluster, NGC 6530.  When increasing the magnification to 83x, I could count about 12 stars in a mostly circular arrangement.   I then reduced the magnification again to 38x, and included a UHC filter, which enhanced the view of the nebula significantly.  

There are two primary banks of nebula with a dark lane between, oriented NE-SW.  However, much fainter and scattered areas of nebulosity are present in the ~1.5º telescope field of view, but only with a UHC filter.   Pencil sketch as following:

M8 Roger




Anas Sawallha:  Observer from Jordan

We welcome a new participate this month, Anas Sawallha from Jordan.  Thank you Anas for your interest, and choosing to be a part.  Hope you will become a regular…     

I have observed M8, the lagoon nebula from many locations, starting from my hometown Irbid, in northern Jordan which has Bortle scale of 6.  It usually appears as a faint smudge even with the aid of a UHC filter.  My best time to observe this object was when I went to a camp which belonged to the Jordanian Astronomical Society (JAS) in the desert near the city of Al-Azraq.  

However, at this time, I did not have a chance to sketch it, being occupied with the riches of deep-sky objects that could be observed from that location.

This time I had the opportunity to sketch the lagoon nebula, because it was my primary purpose. 

Thank you for allowing me to submit my sketch and notes to the Observer’s Challenge. 

Telescope : Newtonian reflector 5-inches 

Eyepiece : Aspheric 23mm Svbony 

Magnification : 43x 

UHC filter was used to aid with the sketching.

Location:  Al-Kharaneh Palace, built during the Umayyad period.

Bortle sky scale 3     



Dwight Lanpher:  Observing from Maine 

In June I received a new telescope and of course, I was immediately plagued by the weather with “new telescope syndrome” for the next two months.  Because of the low elevation of the target and much coastal fog, I initially attempted viewing from Cadillac Mountain when the weather did look clear enough to try.  But, faced with clouds interrupting the session, elevated winds and throngs of comet watchers on the mountain, I didn’t get a completed image until last night.  Except for a few small cumulus clouds teasing to the north, I was finally able to image from the northern shore of Eagle Lake as the low coastal haze had let up for that evening.    

The Lagoon Nebula is a favorite target of a friend with her parallelogram mounted binoculars and always seems to please at public outreach events.  I’ve visited M8 many times with my f/10 12-inch SCT yielding many superlative views. 

My new refractor is an f/5 with an 80mm aperture and a 1” x 1.8” CMOS camera and I was looking forward to a wide field view of this nebula. I had been teased on earlier nights with interrupted exposures, but last night did not disappoint.

With the Monthly Observer’s Challenge July results already published it was fun to compare my results. Up to this time I have been exclusively a visual observer and I was pleased to see how closely the yielded image related to my visual observing and the report’s sketches…only with more detail and color. It obviously doesn’t compare with the resolution of the larger aperture scopes but I do like the captured colors. This picture represents a total of 30 minutes of accumulated exposures.

M8 (201 exp)


Gus Johnson:  Observer from Maryland  (Visual discoverer of SN 1979C)  

M8:  June 1979  (only two months to the day from my SN discover)  

8-inch reflector @ 94x.   Many interesting double and multiple stars in the FOV.  The brightest part of the nebula is on the SW edge.  A dark lane separates the two-part nebula from the dimmer NE portion and oriented NE-SW.   The star cluster really stands out, but have never counted the number of visible star. 

Two bright stars, just above the brighter section toward the north, and west of the cluster.  I have many observations of this most beautiful and interesting nebula and cluster.  


Chris Elledge:  Observer from Massachusetts 

On July 27th @10:10pm EDT, I used a 10-inch f/5 refractor to observe M8 from Arlington, MA. Sky conditions were: Bortle Scale 7; NELM 3.0 near M8; Transparency: Fair; Seeing: Good.  

Attempting to locate M8 in the light pollution to the South was very disappointing after having seen its contained cluster several times in the past as a naked eye object at dark locations. Mag. 2.8 Kaus Borealis was barely visible, but I managed to star hop my way from it to M8.

At 36x (35mm eyepiece) there is a cluster of faint stars (NGC 6530) surrounded by a cluster of brighter stars. I could see eight mag. 8 to 9 stars in the faint cluster with a single mag. 7 star near the middle. The cluster of stars forms a heart shape with the bottom tip pointing to the SSE. There’s a line of brighter stars that runs from WNW to ESE across the fainter cluster. This runs from 7 Sagittarii to 9 Sagittarii and finally HD 165052. 9 Sagittarii and nearby HD 164816 just to its NNE both sit just to the West of NGC 6530. Unfiltered, the nebulosity is pretty lacking. It appears as just a brighter background near the clusters of stars. The brightest part of the nebulosity is near NGC 6530 with some extension to the West, NE, and SE from the cluster.

Adding an UHC filter darkens the background substantially. Nebulosity near NGC 6530 is more easily visible with the brightest area near the South side of the cluster. There is another knot of bright nebulosity just to the West of 9 Sagittarii. There is fainter nebulosity visible to the North of near HD 164865. Some more heads to the West towards 7 Sagittarii, and some stretches from the South of NGC 6530 towards the SE.

Replacing the UHC filter with an OIII further reduces the background brightness. The two bright regions of nebulosity at the South end of NGC 6530 and to the West of 9 Sagittarii are both easily visible. There’s a faint arc stretching between the two regions on the South side. The rest of the nebulosity is much fainter than with the UHC, but some hints of it are still visible in the areas noted before.

Another filter change to H-Beta reduced the brightness of the knots that stood out with the OIII; however, it was easier to pick out the extended glow of the outer areas of the nebulosity against the background. More of the nebula was visible in the area to the North of NGC 6530 and to its SE.

Increasing the power to 115x (11mm) revealed closer to 25 stars visible in NGC 6530. Without a filter it is possible to see the knot of brightness described before to the West of 9 Sagittarii along with an arc of nebulosity to the South reaching into the Southern end of the cluster. There is also now a dark ‘U’ shaped region in the nebulosity that starts between 9 Sagittarii and the cluster, wraps around the Northern potion, and heads back to the South once it passes the Eastern edge of the cluster. Adding an UHC enhances the visibility of the dark region. The OIII makes the region between 9 Sagittarii and NGC 6530 more visible, but doesn’t help with the Northern and Eastern sides. The H-Beta makes everything fainter, but the contrast between the dark ‘U’ and the surrounding nebulosity is improved.


John Bishop:  Observer from Massachusetts 

I observed NGC 6523, more commonly known as Messier 8, or the Lagoon Nebula, on 7/21/20 from Wellfleet, a town on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  

Wellfleet may be under-appreciated as a dark sky site, due to its relative proximity to Boston, but is surrounded by the ocean on two sides, and the National Seashore elsewhere.  However, on a good night, the observing can be outstanding.  This was such a night.

Conditions were very favorable. The sky was clear. Transparency and seeing were excellent; the air was dry and still, despite my being about one quarter mile from the harbor.  All seven stars of the Little Dipper could be seen with direct vision.  The Milky Way was a swirl of clouds. My wife compared the view to that at Cherry Springs, Pennsylvania, a fine view indeed.

I observed with 10×42 image stabilized binoculars, and an 8.25 inch f/11.5 Dall-Kirkham reflector at 48x, 100x, and 130x.  I did not use use any filters.

The observing was so good, and there are so many objects to view in this region of the sky…it was difficult to slow down and spend enough time with M8.  In the binoculars, the area from M7 to M11 is like a waterfall of starclouds, clusters, and nebulae. 

M8 was easily visible to the naked eye as a distinct bright patch in the starfield. In the reflector, M8 was large and bright, irregularly shaped, with a jumble of components: emission nebulae, star clusters, dark nebulae and multiple stars. 

The nebulosity of M8 without a filter was faint but visible enough to extend into the star cluster and show the dark lane dividing the bright emission area from cluster NGC 6530.  (I know filters can show more, but I often find the filtered view “strange” and dim).  The faint nebulosity was typically gray, but the overall hue from M8 was blue, possibly from the stars in NGC 6530. 

A complex, fascinating object in a beautiful field.


Joseph Rothchild:  Observer from Massachusetts 

The Lagoon nebula has always been one of my favorite summer objects and I have been observing it for over 50 years.  It can be easily seen naked eye, with a dark sky, and is a pleasure in all instruments, from 10 x 50 binoculars to my 10-inch reflector. 

I was able to observe this month from Cape Cod under dark but somewhat hazy conditions using my 10-inch reflector.  I observed at magnifications of 46x, 89x, and 178x, as well as 57x with an NBP filter.

The nebula was most visible with the filter, but appeared more three dimensional without the filter, especially at 89x.  The dark lagoon feature is easily seen with the star cluster visible toward the east.  The nebula has beautiful texture.  The hourglass feature was bright and best seen at 178x but also clearly demarcated at 57x with the nebula filter.


Gregory Brannon:  Observer from North Carolina 

We welcome another new participant this month, Gregory Brannon from North Carolina…and hope this will be your first of many. 


I’m a former student of Tom English.  He’s encouraged me to submit to the observer’s report, since I’ve been doing a lot of sketching in my log. Visual observing is a great thing and I advocate for keeping logs and sketches in online discussions, whenever I can. 

Attached are two sketches:

One of Messier 8, and then one of M8, M20, and M21 all together. 

I had accidentally discovered M8, late one June night in foggy skies just before discovering that it’d be the observer’s challenge object for July. I knew I had to return for another look.  It was gorgeous, despite the poor transparency.

On July 11th, an excellent clear night, I did return. I observe from an approximately Bortle-6 field, with no major light domes in the south.

Messier 8, using my 6-inch f/8 dobsonian with a 25mm eyepiece. I could see the “bean” shape, the brightest part of the nebula, and I could just barely make out a small bit of nebulosity nearer the cluster, with a dark lane separating the two features–the feature which gives the object its name, the Lagoon Nebula. Two dim stars lie in the brightest part of the bean, a brighter star lies in a dimmer part of the bean. The cluster is an excellent addition, and the cluster + the nebula really makes this object a showstopper. 

On another night, I observed some objects on the 11th again with my dob (finding many new objects as well; Sagittarius is a gold mine!) as well as with my Celestron FirstScope, a small 3-inch f/4 tabletop dob with a spherical primary mirror.  

Through the FirstScope, the M8 nebula was very bright and easy to see, with the cluster also appearing as a nebulosity unless you dim it down with direct vision. I could easily make out the bean-shaped feature.

M20 and M21 share the field of view with M8. My drawing shows M20 as much brighter than it actually was, due to leftover smudging, something I didn’t catch until later. M20 and M21 were plain stars with direct vision, appearing as small faint nebulae only with averted vision and some difficulty. I also looked at M21 up close and could barely split it into individual stars.

I have not been able to see the larger nebula which surrounds M8, due to light pollution. I look forward to returning to the Cline Observatory and being able to turn its 24-inch telescope onto the object–next summer after the pandemic ends, probably. 

I’d also love to look at it in a dark sky someday. I’m also wondering how much a UHC/H-beta/O-III filter could improve the view. Either way, it’s definitely an object to return to.   

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Finally a Decent Prominence by Guest Host: Mario Motta

Posted June 10, 2020 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

Date: May 31, 2020

Telescope and imaging information:  

Coronada 90mm solar scope.  Two exposures, one 0.004 seconds for solar surface, second 0.01 seconds for prominence, as two different exposures are needed for this type of image.  Best of twenty images used for each, then stacked together for composition, mildly contrast enhanced only processing needed.   Mario Motta 

Dr. James Dire: Candidate For 2020 President of The Astronomical League. Jim is A visual Observer, and Astrophotographer, Has a PhD in Planetary Science, But “most Importantly” a Backyard Observer.

Posted June 2, 2020 by rogerivester
Categories: Roger's Articles

Yesterday, I received my (June 2020) Astronomical League “Reflector” Magazine.  

Most of us “long-time” amateurs have watched this magazine go from just a few pages to a very high-quality astronomy magazine, with “nice high-quality” slick paper.  A very nice feel when turning the pages, and looking at some beautiful amateur astronomy images.  An excellent magazine for sure!    

Purpose of this email:

James Dire, a friend and also longtime participant of the Observer’s Challenge, is in the running for president of the Astronomical League.  


Myself to the left, Jim Dire in the center, and Steve Davis on the right at a regional astronomy event.  

Jim and Sue French (former Contributing Editor to Sky & Telescope Magazine) have both supported the Observer’s Challenge, since its earliest days.  As of 2020, the challenge is entering its 12th year!

Note:  The Observer’s Challenge is the only monthly report (in the country and beyond) since February 2009, that allows any and all serious amateurs to share what they do best as an amateur.  Visual observing notes, pencil sketches and digital images.   

I’ve known “Jim” for more than 20 years, and have observed with him on occasion in years past.

Jim is both a visual observer and an expert astrophotographer.  

He has also been writing the “Deep-Sky” column for the “Reflector” since 2010, as well as being a regular contributor to “Astronomy Today” magazine.  

The following is a few excerpt’s from the June 2020 “Reflector” magazine by Dire:  

“After starting a paper route at age 12, one of my first purchases was a 60mm refractor….”

U of Missouri, Kansas City:   “….I can honestly say I learned more practical astronomy as a member of this astronomy club than in any of my undergraduate classes.”    

MS in physics, University of C Florida.

MA and PhD from John Hopkins University, both in planetary science.

It’s my opinion:  

We need more people in leadership roles in astronomy, and “astronomy publications” who started a paper route at 12 years of age…all for the purpose of purchasing a telescope.  It’s always been opinion, backyard observing is what amateur astronomy is all about.  

Roger Ivester

Modern and Improved, Full Cut-Off Lighting Fixtures In Matthews, NC: Also an Example of Very Poor Lighting In Shelby, NC

Posted May 31, 2020 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized


     Since late summer 2019, my wife and I, have had regular business (Animal Eye Clinic) in the city of Matthews, North Carolina, which is a town on the outskirts of Charlotte.  

     Matthews has some excellent and very attractive full cut-off lighting fixtures.  Lighting should be “fully-shielded” and directed downward to avoid glare and excessive light pollution, as the following photos show.  I can’t be for sure if they are 3000k or less, but hopefully not 4000k.  

     Many of the lights have back-shields which eliminate unnecessary light shining on or in house windows.  This is a great feature.  Proper outdoor lighting should direct light where it’s needed only.  

     The lights I’m discussing in Matthews are in a “seemingly” newer business and residential area.   

IMG_1418      Currently, the trend in many residential areas and city sidewalk lighting in cities “are…

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NGC 5689 and Optional Galaxy NGC 5676 In Bootes – June 2020 Observer’s Challenge Report #137

Posted May 20, 2020 by rogerivester
Categories: Work File Only - Observer's Challenge Reports


Compiled by:

Roger Ivester, North Carolina


Sue French, New York

June 2020

Report #137

Galaxy NGC 5689 in Boötes

Sharing Observations and Bringing Amateur Astronomers Together



The purpose of the Observer’s Challenge is to encourage the pursuit of visual observing. It’s open to everyone who’s interested, and if you’re able to contribute notes, and/or drawings, we’ll be happy to include them in our monthly summary. Visual astronomy depends on what’s seen through the eyepiece. Not only does it satisfy an innate curiosity, but it allows the visual observer to discover the beauty and the wonderment of the night sky. Before photography, all observations depended on what astronomers saw in the eyepiece, and how they recorded their observations. This was done through notes and drawings, and that’s the tradition we’re stressing in the Observer’s Challenge. And for folks with an interest in astrophotography, your digital images and notes are just as welcome. The hope is that you’ll read through these reports and become inspired to take more time at the eyepiece, study each object, and look for those subtle details that you might never have noticed before.

This month’s target

The barred spiral galaxy NGC 5689 dwells in the northern reaches of Boötes, the Herdsman. In a a 2015 journal paper, Korean astronomer Hong Bae Ann and colleagues derived the galaxy’s distance from its radial velocity relative to the Local Group, using a Hubble constant of 75 km/sec/Mpc. Correcting their distance using the Hubble constant now favored by the NASA/IPAC Extragalactic Database (67.8 km/sec/Mpc) converts it to 99 million light-years.

William Herschel discovered NGC 5689 in 1787. His hand-written journal reads, “Pretty bright or considerably bright. A little elongated in the direction of the parallel, about 1½′ long. Much brighter in the middle.” Three nights later, he described it as having faint branches.


Sue French:  Observer from New York 

May 21, 2020

10-inch f/5.9 Newtonian reflector

Seeing: fair.  Transparency: good

I can just barely squash NGC 5689 and NGC 5676 into the field of view at 88×, which has a true field of 56 arcminutes. The sketch shows this along with the brightest field stars. There wasn’t much detail to be seen at this magnification, so I improved the looks of the two galaxies according to their appearance at 187×. At that power, NGC 5689 is an adorable little guy that looks very much like the archetypical UFO. The core’s bulge sticks out more toward the north than the south, and it holds a brighter center. Also at 187×, NGC 5676 hosts an ovalish core, and the galaxy appears brighter NE×E of the core than it does on the opposite side.

NGC 5676 and 5689 cinvc


Uwe Glahn:  Observer from Germany

Object: NGC 5676  

Telescope: 27-inch f/4.2 Newtonian 

Magnification: 419×

NELM: 6.5+

Seeing: III

Location: Sudelfeld  

Sketch as following: 

NGC5676i Uwe inv

 Object: NGC 5689

Telescope: 27-inch f/4.2 Newtonian 

Magnification: 293× – 488×

Magnification: fst 6m5+

Seeing: III

Location: Sudelfeld

Sketch as following:

NGC5689i Uwe inv


James Dire:  Observer from Illinois 

NGC 5689 is a magnitude 11.8 galaxy in Boötes.  The galaxy is located 10 degrees north of Gamma Boötis and 8 degrees east of the star Alkaid, the star at the end of the Big Dipper’s handle.  Some classify this galaxy as lenticular while others claim it is a barred spiral galaxy. The galaxy is nearly edge on and has a relatively bright core and galactic bulge with a faint featureless disk.

I imaged the galaxy over several nights under less than idea atmospheric conditions.  I used an 8-inch f/8 Ritchey–Chrétien Cassegrain (with a Televue 0.8x focal reducer/field flattener yielding f/6.4) and an SBIG ST-2000XCM CCD camera. The total exposure time was 4 hours. In the image north is up and east to the left.

Two other notable galaxies in the image are NGC5682, a 14.3 magnitude spiral galaxy to the southwest of NGC 5689, and NGC5693, a 14.2 magnitude face-on spiral galaxy.  There are scores of other galaxies in the same image ranging from magnitude 15 to 18.  The bright star at the top of the image is magnitude 10.2. 



Roger Ivester:  Observer from North Carolina

NGC 5689 and NGC 5676 – Galaxies in Bootes 

Date:  May 2020

Telescope: 10-inch f/4.5 reflector

Sketch Magnification: 200x

NELM:  4.8

Faint and dim from my moderately light polluted backyard.  Poor transparency, due to springtime pollen and ambient lighting mixing together creating sky glow, similar to  snow covering.  

NGC 5689:  Elongated EW, brighter central region, with mottling in both the core and arms.  When using averted vision at 200x, a stellar nucleus can be seen, but not constantly.  Looking approximately 50 arcminutes to the NNW is galaxy NGC 5676.  

NGC 5676:  50 arc minutes to the NNW of NGC 5689, lies galaxy NGC 5676.  A bit brighter than NGC 5689.  This galaxy is elongated, oriented NE-SW, without any center brightness, very soft with even texture.  But with very careful and patient observing using averted vision, the southwestern section appears to have greater concentration, and brighter than the northeastern part.  However, very subtle.  

Pencil sketches as following:

NGC 5689 Roger

NGC 5676 Roger


Mario Motta:  Observer from Massachusetts

After what was over a month of rain and clouds, finally a clear night last night, see attached, NGC 5689 for June object, also noted are NGC 5682-83 in lower right side of field.

This group is 110 million light years away.

Taken with 32-inch telescope, 45 minutes total integration time, with ZWO ASI6200 camera, and processed PixInsight.

Note, I normally take a minimum of over 60 minutes, and I did… but had to drop 4 frames due to incredibly bright satellite trails, unusual that far north. these trails were much brighter than ordinary satellites , and could not be fully removed with processing, so had to drop frames.

I suspect Starlink satellites , a bad taste of what I suspect is the future., and only a small fraction have yet been put in orbit.



Rony De Laet: Observer from Belgium

Telescope: 16-inch f/4.5 truss Dobson

These are the first object that I studied with my 16-inch truss Dobson. I had never observed them before.

Due to my Bortle 5 sky I don’t get satisfying low power views of deep-sky objects. My best views are at powers of 150x and above. I was not even trying to fit both galaxies in the same high power eyepiece. 

NGC 5676 is the most detailed of the two. A starlike nucleus is embedded in a bar shaped core. The NE-part of the core seems to extend into a short spiral arm. The halo of this galaxy extends more to the SW. Within the SE edge of the halo, I could detect a small trace of another spiral arm. 

NGC 5689 appears much smaller. A stellar nucleus is centered in an oval donut shaped core. This could be an illusion due to the difference in brightness between the nucleus an the core. The E-side of the oval donut seems a little brighter than the W-side. The halo is elongated.

The sketches are digital reproductions of raw pencil sketches behind the eyepiece at powers of 200x and 278x.

The fov is 22 arc minutes 

North is up

West to the right  

NGC 5689




NGC 5676





Glenn Chaple:  Observer from Massachusetts 

NGC 5689 – Lenticular Galaxy in Boötes (Mag: 11.9 Size: 3.3’ X 1.0’)

June is a difficult month for backyard astronomers here in the northern hemisphere. We battle fatigue (June sunsets are the latest of the year), haze and humidity, and – mosquitos. While yawning, sweating, and swatting, you’ll be struggling to glimpse this month’s Observer’s Challenge, the 12th magnitude lenticular galaxy NGC 5689.

I went after NGC 5689 with a 10-inch f/5 reflector on a clear, moonless evening under typical suburban skies (limiting magnitude 5). To find the galaxy, I star-hopped, beginning from a triangle made up of the stars kappa (κ), iota (ι), and theta (θ), Boötis, located in the upper northwest corner of Boötes and east of the handle of the Big Dipper. From there, I traced a path to the 6th magnitude stars 24 Boötis and SAO45121. At 139X and using averted vision, I could barely make out a ghostly glow less than a degree south and slightly east of the latter star. The glimpses were so fleeting that I was unable to capture any detail. If I were to tackle NGC 5689 again, I would observe from a much darker site.

If you’re limited to a small-aperture scope and/or skies compromised by artificial lighting, I encourage you to check out a trio of nearby double stars shown in Finder Chart B. Kappa (κ) Boötis is a charming magnitude 4.5 and 6.6 pair separated by 13.7 arc-seconds. Less than a degree southeast is iota (ι) Boötis whose magnitude 4.8 and 7.4 components are a roomy 38.9” apart. Both pairs are easily split at 30X. You’ll need a boost in magnification (100X or more) to split 39 Boötis. In 2019, this magnitude 6.3 and 6.7 duo was separated by a mere 2.5”. Both are mid F-class main sequence stars. Are you able to detect a subtle off-yellow hue?

NGC 5689 was discovered by William Herschel in 1787. Sources place its distance as somewhere between 100 and 120 million light years. In either case, the photons striking your retina left when dinosaurs ruled the earth.


Chris Elledge:  Observer from Massachusetts

On June 16th @10:30pm EDT, I used a 10-inch f/5 refractor to observe NGC 5689 from Arlington, MA. Sky conditions were: Bortle Scale 7; NELM 4.5; Transparency: Good; Seeing: Excellent.  

Asellus Primus was barely visible in the light polluted skies of Arlington. To get to NGC5689 I star hopped from it to g Bootis and then CH Bootis which fit in the view of my 35mm eyepiece along with NGC5689. At this low power of 36x the galaxy is difficult to consistently detect with averted vision appearing as just a faint spot against the background. There is a line of 3 bright stars mag. 5 to mag. 8 to the North running NE-SW (HD 128643, CH Bootis, & HD 127930). There is an arc of 5 mag. 8 to mag. 10 stars to the SE (HD 128718, TYC 3476-0987-1, SAO 45150, SAO 45156, & HD 129308) that bends to the NW in the middle like a bow. 2 more mag. 10 stars near the middle point to the SE forming an arrow in the bow that points NW towards a trapezoid of mag. 10 to mag. 11 stars (TYC 3476-1064-1, TYC 3476-1489-1, TYC 3476-0680-1 & TYC 3476-0722-1). The 2 parallel sides run North-South. The shorter side is to the East away from the galaxy (TYC 3476-0680-1 & TYC 3476-0722-1). There is a fainter 5th star in the middle visible with averted vision (TYC 3476-1348-1). To the West of the NW star in the trapezoid is another mag. 10 star (TYC 3476-0252-1), and the galaxy sits about the same distance to the West of the SW star in the trapezoid (TYC 3476-1489-1).

At 115x (11mm) the galaxy NGC 5689 is visible with averted vision, but it’s difficult to keep it from disappearing while focusing my attention on it. I can’t get any hint of the elongation or shape of the galaxy, just it’s presence. The Western edge of the trapezoid of stars is still visible in the view, and a fainter star just to the NW of the NW star of the trapezoid is visible (TYC 3476-0572-1). Two mag. 13 stars also appear between the galaxy and the mag. 10 star to it’s North.

At 270x (4.7mm) NGC 5689 is still visible with averted vision. It is easier to detect it while panning the telescope view around. It appears as a slight and small glow against the background. There is a tiny hint of elongation in the East-West orientation. 


Mike McCabe: Observer from Massachusetts

June was a tough month for me as far as observing goes. I don’t like the late onset of darkness and on top of that the weather wasn’t very cooperative.  Also, the past several years have had the planets in the evening sky to occupy me while it gets dark. Now with nothing to fill the two hour twilight zone I often find myself falling asleep before astronomical dark sets in, and once that happens it’s over.

I did get out a few times though, and during those times the sky was pretty good for this time of year. On the evening that I tackled the observer’s challenge the sky was variable, with large banks of clouds coming through and causing me to temporarily abandon my efforts until they passed by. During the times that the Bootes area of the sky was clear, the transparency was about 2/5 and the seeing was also 2/5. That’s about average for my area. One thing that wasn’t average though was the temperature – at 23:00 it was still 75ºf and the humidity was 84%!  It was definitely a sticky night.

I used a 10-inch f/5 Newtonian reflector on a dob base, and my sketch was made at a magnification of 104x. The star hop was an easy one from Alkaid, the star that marks the end of the handle in the Big Dipper. That was good, because I had to do it several times due to the cloud situation. I found the galaxy to be readily visible in the eyepiece and the orientation was clearly discernible. Interestingly the field of view was quite sparse, save for a couple of 10th –12th magnitude stars here and there. I wasn’t able to glean any more detail about the galaxy during this observation, but then under the sky I was working with I was pretty pleased just to be able to see it at all.

I did not get the chance to view the optional galaxy NGC 5676 due to the sky going away too badly after finally getting 5689 on paper. I’m now looking forward to viewing the summer objects and trying to wring out all that extended nebulosity that they all offer.  Pencil Sketch: 

Pencil Sketch:  Joseph Rothchild: Observer from Massachusetts

Jun'20 ObsChall NGC 5689 McCabe-G


Joseph Rothchild: Observer from Massachusetts

I observed NGC 5689, a small galaxy in Bootes.  I observed at Cape Cod under fairly dark skies with my 10-inch reflector.

The galaxy was fairly straightforward to find, but needed to be differentiated from other faint galaxies in the area.  I confirmed it’s location near a small line of 3 stars. The galaxy formed a square with three other stars, one of which was a double.

The galaxy itself was small, faint, and oval in shape without discernible structure.  It was best seen at 89x.

I had never observed this galaxy before, so I was thankful it was on the challenge list for this month.  John Bishop: Observer from Massachusetts


 John Bishop: Observer from Massachusetts

I only got a quick peek at this month’s object, NGC 5689 in Bootes, at the end of an observing session on 5/13/20. I was sure I would have another session in June. I was wrong. As a result, my observation was pretty barebones; I didn’t spend much time viewing the object, and I didn’t see or look for NGC 5676.

I observed NGC 5689 from a remote forest setting in Plymouth, MA, about 50 miles from Boston. Conditions were very favorable. The sky was clear;  transparency and seeing were good.  I observed with an 8.25 inch Dall-Kirkham reflector at 48x, 100x, and 130x, using an equatorial mount with motor drive, without goto.

I found NGC 5689 fairly quickly by triangulating off Theta Bootis and Lambda Bootis, using my Telrad and 2 inch 50 mm eyepiece. It was visible (without averted vision) as a small hazy patch with no structure or detail. With increased magnification, the galaxy was elongated, with a slight brightening at center. 

The observing was particularly fine this night, benefiting from the favorable conditions at a dark sky site. Those of us observing wondered how much the COVID shutdown might have contributed to the cleaner air and lower light pollution we perceived this night.


Venu Venugopal:  Observer from Massachusetts  

72mm APO Refractor 











“Celestial Harvest” The Book: By Guest Host, James Mullaney

Posted May 18, 2020 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized


When I first become a budding stargazer at age 14 and anxious to see everything in the sky, I consulted a number of supposed “showpiece” lists – and soon became disappointed and frustrated.  Many were obviously compiled based on photographs and not visual impressions, including objects like the Horsehead Nebula.  So I decided to survey the entire sky visible from my home (back then) in Pittsburgh.  I wrote to my idol Walter Scott Houston (Scotty) and told him of my plan.  He kindly replied saying he was afraid this was an impossible project in aesthetics – but then, characteristically, said “Go for it!”

As a result, nearly 50 years later and over 20,000 hours spent at the eyepieces of many dozens of telescopes of every size, type, and make from 2-inches to 13-inches (Allegheny Observatory’s famed 13-inch Fitz-Clark refractor) in aperture, in 1998 I self-published Celestial Harvest: 300-Plus Showpieces of the Heavens for Telescope Viewing & Contemplation (later reprinted by Dover Publications in 2002).   Thus, my lifelong labor-of-love came to be born!

James Mullaney