Roger Ivester: Amateur Astronomer

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

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

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I first became interested in astronomy in the mid-60’s at the age of twelve. One of my brothers, Jim, had purchased a 60 mm refractor, and I soon became really 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 very close to my house, where I hoped to view some of those fabulous spiral galaxies and nebulae and star clusters I’d seen in my science books. However, this was not yet to be, as I had quite a bit of learning to do, which continues, even to this day.     

I grew up in the foothills of western North Carolina.  My house was located near the end of a dirt road with only two others. It was a wonderful 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 horizon. 

My progression was very slow at first, and found amateur astronomy to be difficult.  However, it was just fun being outside with my telescope in total solitude. When looking into the eyepiece, the colors of the stars became obvious. I perceived some as being rust, white, blue, bluish-white, or orange. Sometimes while looking at those distant suns, I’d wonder if there was life beyond the Earth.

I can still remember the frogs in the spring and summer, and occasionally a solitary great horned owl in the distance, on those cold wintry nights.  Summer in western North Carolina had a sound all its own, with a million insects singing in perfect harmony.  Gazing at a dark sky, full of stars and listening to the sounds of nature was mesmerizing.  

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

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

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

I’ll never forget one special night using this telescope. I was 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, and the light pollution was very severe in my back yard.

Attempting to find even the brightest deep-sky objects under these conditions proved to be difficult. I had tried many times to locate M81 and M82, but without success.  

One night, while observing, time was running out.  It was already after 11:00 PM, and I needed to get up early the next morning.  I used my hands in an attempt to block the ambient light from entering my eyepiece, and then it happened:  A small and faint fuzzy object entered my telescope view, and then with a slight nudge, another…..finally M81 and M82.  What a beautiful sight!  I savored the view for the longest time and to this day and can still feel that excitement.  I went to bed smiling that night, and in my mind, I was now a real amateur astronomer.   

Getting Serious:

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

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

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

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

Supplemental:  

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

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

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

Astronomy blogger since 2010.  

“If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word”   Margaret Atwood 

Roger and Debbie Ivester 

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

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NGC 6818 – Planetary Nebula – Sagittarius – September 2018 – Observer’s Challenge Report #115

Posted October 12, 2018 by rogerivester
Categories: Observer's Challenge Reports

SEPTEMBER 2018 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-6818

Pencil sketch from the eyepiece using a 5 x 8 blank notecard, and 6-inch f/6 reflector @ 129x

NGC 6818 Sketch

Pencil sketch averted color

Rogers NGC-6818 Inverted

 

Planetary Nebula IC 1295 In Scutum: August 2018 Observer’s Challenge Report

Posted September 20, 2018 by rogerivester
Categories: Observer's Challenge Reports

AUGUST 2018 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – IC-1295-1

Image by Mario Motta from Massachusetts, using a 32-inch reflector

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Las Vegas Astronomical Society, Annual Observing Event at Cathedral Gorge, Nevada. Date: Thursday September 6th Thru The 9th 2018

Posted September 15, 2018 by rogerivester
Categories: Roger's Articles

Cathedral Gorge, Nevada, deep-sky observing site.  What a beautiful place!  

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Below:  Robert Sherman facing away, and standing beside John Heller’s 25-inch Obsession reflector.  Fred Rayworth’s 16-inch Meade in the center of the photo.  

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Christina Feliciano (R) and Cindi Heller to the left.

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Below:  Fred Rayworth. 

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Jay and Liz Thompson with the LVAS 24-inch club scope.  

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Messier 4 – Globular Cluster in Scorpius – July 2018 Observer’s Challenge Report

Posted August 24, 2018 by rogerivester
Categories: Observer's Challenge Reports

Click on the following link for the complete report:  

JULY 2018 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – M-004

Notes from my backyard:

Globular cluster, M4 is easy to see with a 60 mm refractor, appearing as a faint circular glow at low magnification.  When using a 3.5-inch Maksutov-Cassegrain at 78x, there is a resolve of some of the brighter members.  The cluster has a subtle elongated shape.  A very faint chain of stars was noted in the central region, oriented N-S.  With 102 mm refractor, there is a greater number of stars resolved within the cluster, and much greater concentration of stars, elongated and with more stars in the central chain. A prominent double star is located on the SE edge.   

10-inch reflector at 140x, excellent resolve of the cluster. The center chain of stars is very bright and with many stars counted, both in the central region and around the outer edges.  A chain of stars makes an arc, the entire length of the cluster on the NW side.  The elongation shape becomes much more apparent with the larger aperture.      Roger Ivester 

Pencil sketch with the colors inverted using a 102 mm refractor @ 140x 

Rogers M-004 Inverted

 

 

What? Sand Dunes In The Northeastern Corner Of South Carolina, 50 Miles From The Atlantic Ocean! And Also Very Dark Skies

Posted August 14, 2018 by rogerivester
Categories: Roger's Articles

While visiting family in Mullins, South Carolina over the past few years, I’ve discovered some fabulous dark-sky areas, perfect for the use of an astronomical telescope.  

Only a few miles outside the city limits, there are country roads, agriculture fields, and no houses or lights for miles and miles.  

Hopefully in future visits, I’ll be able to take one of my smaller telescopes, but unfortunately, like most all locations on the east coast, cloudy skies seem to prevail.  

However, this trip yielded some beautiful skies, but on our first night we were too tired to attempt to see the Perseid meteor shower. 

The next morning….Tuesday August 14th 2018.  

When driving in a secluded area, via unfamiliar country roads, you never know what you may find:   

While riding around with my oldest grandson, who just got his learners permit, and I was sharing my wisdom, of how to be a safe driver.  During our  leisure drive, we found something very interesting:  

Sand dunes, and a very sandy area….at first resembling snow, all in the middle of a dense forest and surrounded by swamp land.  There were Bald Cypress trees growing out of the black murky water, Spanish moss hanging from the trees, and who knows…..maybe even an alligator or two in that dark water!

Note:  This very remote small sandy area is a protected site.  I took some pictures as following, but somehow missed the eerie swamp.   

Roger 

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Stopped and using the car as a size reference, to a part of the protected site: 

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South Carolina Grandkids

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Debbie (Grammy) with granddaughter Gracie

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Couldn’t leave our Sophie behind!  She’s ready to go anytime we are! 

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M51 and Companion Galaxy NGC 5195 – June 2018 Observer’s Challenge Report

Posted July 12, 2018 by rogerivester
Categories: Observer's Challenge Reports

JUNE 2018 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – M-051

Observing notes: 

Messier 51 is visible along with companion NGC-5195 in a 60mm (2.4-inch) refractor.  M51 was mostly round with a bright stellar nucleus and a very faint halo.  The small companion galaxy, NGC-5195, just to the north was very faint and small.  If sky conditions are poor, this galaxy pair can be extremely difficult to see using a telescope this small.

In a 10-inch reflector on an exceptional night at 190X, spiral structure was easily visible.  I could trace the prominent eastern arm almost in contact with companion galaxy, NGC-5195.  The nuclei of both NGC-5194 and NGC-5195 were both stellar, with the smaller galaxy, 5195, having a brighter, more intense nuclei.  M51 had a mag. 13.5 star a couple of minutes to the SW of the core, still within the halo, and a mag. 14 star, (requiring averted vision to see) just off to the east, but outside of the halo.

One of my most memorable views of NGC-5194 and NGC-5195 came during an early spring night in 1993, using a 14.5-inch reflector.  The connecting arm of M51 (NGC-5194) was incredible and it reached far out toward the companion galaxy to the north.  This view rivaled that of many photographs.

On the night of April 14, 1994, supernova 1994I was visible.  I estimated the mag. of the SN on that night at 13.8.  The following pencil sketch was made that night. 

 

Rogers M-051 New a Inverted
 

Cline Observatory Double Star List – Compiled By Tom English – July 2018

Posted June 22, 2018 by rogerivester
Categories: Roger's Articles

Cline Observatory Double Star List – 25double-5triple

Tom English has put together an excellent list of twenty five doubles and five  multiple stars, which at first glance would seem to be compiled for only those new to this facet of amateur astronomy.  However, for those of us who have enjoyed double star observing for decades, we know there is no such thing as a beginners list.

Double star lists can be comprised of the most difficult pairs due to their close separations and sometimes with unequal magnitudes, or those with wide separations and beautiful contrasting colors.  It was the latter which coined the name: “The jewels of the night sky.”

This list contains some beautiful and interesting doubles, all of which can be observed with a very small telescope.  The famous double star, Epsilon Bootis is probably the most difficult double on the list, which has always required a 4-inch aperture for me.  Many observers have reported seeing the companion to Epsilon with a 3-inch, and from Webb….a 2-inch, or even smaller.   

Are you stressed, too tired to take out that big telescope, but would like to enjoy an hour or so of relaxation under the night sky?  So….why not a 60 mm refractor or a 3-inch reflector?  Oh yes….don’t worry about the bright moon or ambient lights as both have little effect on most double stars.     

At one time I thought anything less than a three or four hour observing session was not worth the effort to take a telescope outside.  I became so consumed with observing….there was no way I could miss one clear night.  My observing became more of a job, and I was always grateful for a cloudy night.  The obsession to observe did not allow me to make the decision to not observe, only something like a cloudy night, rain or snow, which was beyond my control.  I’m happy to say….I’m now cured of this malady.  🙂 

Want to become a better double star observer?  I’ve listed a few things as following which have helped me over the years:  

I’ve never been able to observe through a telescope eyepiece and stand at the same time, much less attempt a pencil sketch.  

Careful and skilled observing requires patience and comfort.  

And for those extremely close and difficult doubles, an eyepatch is necessary for the non-observing eye.  It’s important to relax the facial muscles and  it’s “absolutely” essential to hold the observing eye very still and on-axis….hence the need to be seated.   

Roger Ivester  

“If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word”   Margaret Atwood