Roger Ivester: Amateur Astronomer

Posted December 15, 2015 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

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

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My Story:

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 pretty decent eyepieces, a Barlow lens, and a host of other accessories. I would take this scope 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 to this day.     

I grew up in the foothills of western North Carolina, completely devoid of light pollution. The sky was velvety black with the Milky Way extending almost to the horizon. My house was located near the end of a dirt road with only three others.  It was a wonderful place for a budding new amateur astronomer.

My progression was very slow at first, and found amateur astronomy to be difficult. I knew nothing about star hopping, polar alignment, or setting circles, however, I persevered.  It was, however, 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 the color of 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.  It would be 1985, or about the time of Halley’s Comet, that a local astronomy club was formed and I became a member.   

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 that I acquired my very own telescope, a 4 1/4-inch Edmund Scientific reflector.  I’ll never forget one special night with this scope.  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 severe in my back yard.

Attempting to find even the brightest deep-sky objects under these conditions proved to be difficult.  I had tried to find M81 and M82, only to be met by failure.  I wanted so badly to see these galaxies, which appeared so striking and beautiful in the magazines.

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 happended:  A small, faint object entered my telescope view, and then another.  I had finally found 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.  In my mind, I became a real amateur astronomer that night.

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 objects that were impossible with my smaller scopes.  During this period, I also became good friends with an astronomy and physics professor at a local university.  We began observing together and he taught me a lot, both about observing and astronomy in general.

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 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 over 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….open to any serious amateur to share observations, sketches, images, and notes on a monthly basis.  In June 2017, the challenge will celebrate it’s 100th consecutive monthly report, with  followers all over the country and in many foreign countries.   

Catalyst for the Mount Potosi Observing Complex in Southern Nevada, facilitating a $50,000 telescope donation by Dr. James Hermann, M.D. from North Carolina.    Roger Ivester

 

Roger and Debbie Ivester

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Debbie pictured with a 6-inch f/6 reflector.  In the days of yesteryear, the 6-inch reflector was the workhorse of amateur astronomy, but in recent years has lost favor among the amateur astronomy community.  Not so fast!   Please consider:  The 6-inch reflector is reasonably easy for most anyone to handle, and has good light gathering capability.  The venerable six, is an excellent all around portable telescope, especially with an f/6 focal ratio.   

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Just had to include a photo of my other hobby….cycling.  I’ve been fortunate to be able to log 130,000 lifetime miles, to-date.    

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NGC 6015 – Galaxy in Draco – Observer’s Challenge Report – June 2017 #100

Posted June 9, 2017 by rogerivester
Categories: Observer's Challenge Reports

A fabulous galaxy, NGC 6015 awaits those who choose to be a part of this months very special observer challenge report….our 100th edition.  

A brief excerpt from Skiff & Luginbuhl:

NGC 6015 – Galaxy – Draco – Mag. 11.1; Size 5.4′ x 2.3′ “This galaxy is faintly visible to 15 cm about 2′.5 E of a mag. 11 star.  In 25 cm it is 3′ x 1′.25 in pa 30º, a fat oval broadly brighter to the center with a narrow central bar occasionally visible.  It grows to 5′.5 x 1′.8 with 30 cm, with weak concentration to a broad core. A mag. 13.5 star is visible within the halo 2′ S.”  Skiff & Luginbuhl;  Observing Handbook and Catalog of Deep-Sky Objects

RA: 15h 51.4m  Dec. +62º 19′ 

NGC 6015:  The following image provided by James Dire of Hawaii using a 10-inch reflector:

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The following image by Mario Motta from Massachusetts using a 32-inch reflector:

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Observer’s Challenge: Galaxy M98 in Virgo – May 2017 – Report #99

Posted May 24, 2017 by rogerivester
Categories: Observer's Challenge Reports

MAY 2017 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – M-098-1

Image of galaxy M98:  32-inch reflector by Mario Motta from Massachusetts.   

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“M98 (NGC 4192) is an elongated nearly edge-on type Sb spiral, measuring 8.2′ x 2.0′ and shining at magnitude 11.0.  This galaxy’s surface brightness is rather low, making it a tricky object at high power.  Backyard telescopes show this galaxy as a thin streak of greenish light, slightly curved, showing a faint envelope of gas and a sharp nucleus.”   David J. Eicher – Wisconsin – Editor Astronomy Magazine 

 

“Although M98 has low surface brightness, it can be seen in a 60mm refractor under dark skies.  Through a 105mm scope at around 100x, the galaxy is about 6′ x 2′, elongated N-NW to S-SW.  It contains a brighter, extended patchy core and an off-center, nearly stellar nucleus.”  Sue French –  New York – Deep-Sky Wonders

 

M98 is one of the fainter of the Messier objects and can be especially difficult when observed with a telescope smaller than 4-inches. The surface brightness is very low, and regardless of telescope size, a dark sky is needed to see and fully appreciate the many faint, but fine details this galaxy has to offer.

In a 10-inch reflector, M98 appears fairly bright, elongated, a bright nucleus, with unevenness in the halo, with some mottling noted in the central region. Two brighter sections can be seen in both the NW and SE arms.  The nucleus is off-set toward the SE.  

With a 102 mm refractor, and observing from my moderately light polluted backyard this galaxy appears very faint, elongated and weak without any center brightness. In a 6-inch reflector, the galaxy is slightly enlarged and overall a bit brighter when compared to the refractor.  Roger Ivester – Observer from North Carolina 

 Pencil sketch:

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Inverted sketch: 

Rogers M-098 Inverted

 

 

By Dr. James Dire –  Observer from Hawaii
M98 is a magnitude 10.1 barred spiral galaxy in the constellation Coma Berenices. The galaxy is located 6 degrees east of the star Denebola. The galaxy is one-half degree west of the 5th magnitude star 6 Comae Berenices. M98 measures 10 x 2.8 arc minutes in size.

M98 is a nearly edge-on galaxy, inclined 74° to our line of sight. The galaxy has tightly wound spiral arms with a chaotic disk and an active nucleus. Distance measurements range from 44 to 66 million light years. It is thought to be a member of the Virgo galaxy cluster. The galaxy may have interacted with M99 750 million years ago which may account for the distortions in its disk.

Pierre Mechain discovered M98 in 1781, confirmed later that year by Charles Messier. Messier added M98, M99 and M100 into his third catalog immediately before publishing this final edition of his famous list. M98 is one of the faintest objects in Messier’s Catalog.

M98 is one of the few galaxies with a blue shift, meaning it is approaching us. This motion may be temporary if M98 is orbiting the Virgo Cluster. It may be at a point in its orbit where it is approaching us. If it is gravitationally bound to the cluster, it will never reach us.

I viewed M98 in a 6-inch refractor. The galaxy definitely was elongated and nearly edge on. No dust lane was visible and the core appeared much brighter then the galaxy’s edges.

My image of M98 was taken with a 10-inch f/6.9 Newtonian with an SBIG ST-2000XCM CCD camera. The exposure was 200 minutes. I would have preferred a much longer exposure to bring out more detail on the edges of the galaxy and may gather more data on it in the future. The brightest star in the image, located near the bottom left edge, is magnitude 11.7. The four star just off the left edge of the galaxy are magnitudes 12.5, 15.2 16.5 and 18.

On the image, note the bright star-forming region on the bottom (south) edge of the disk. The spiral arm edge visible on the top (north) side of the galaxy has bright HII regions with bright star clusters. Even with this small telescope, I was able to capture the distortions on the north edge of the galaxy’s disk. It appears like the galaxy has two disks that are slightly misaligned with each other. This was either caused the interaction with M99 cited above, or two galaxies have merged to create the presently seen M98.  JD 

M98

 

 

Messier 98 is the second faintest object in the entire Messier galaxy only preceded by M91 (only 0.1 magnitudes fainter). With a visual magnitude of 10.1 and a surface brightness of roughly 13.5 it can be a fairly difficult catch under light polluted skies.

Observing in a suburban location, I could barely make out M98 with a 4.5-inch telescope as an elongated galaxy with a brighter core. With a 10-inch dobsonian reflector and high magnification under a dark sky, I could make out some structure from the mottled disk.

I described the object as follows using magnifications between 60 and 343x:

“Elongated in NW-SE direction. Bright core with a nearly stellar nucleus in the middle. Two spiral arm stubs visible, southern one being slightly brighter. Some dark markings near on the NW side of the galaxy but too difficult to sketch properly. With a bit of a stretch the galaxy is 5′ x 2′ in size”.    Jaakko Saloranta – Observer from Finland 

M98 Pencil sketch using a 4.5-inch reflector:   JS 

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M98 –  Date of Observation:  4/12/2015 

I first viewed this galaxy on April 2, 1978, using a 3-inch f/10 reflector at 30X. I wrote in my logbook “Very faint, but looms large with averted vision.” On both occasions, M98 was located with the help of an Astro Card.  Glenn Chaple – Observer from Massachusetts 

Pencil sketch with colors inverted.  GC 

Glenns M-098

 

I observed M98 in dark but hazy skies on Cape Cod with a 10-inch reflector at 87x.  It was easily found with a Telrad offset from 6 Com.  It appeared as an oval patch elongated with approximately 1:4 ratio.  The galaxy appeared uniform without internal details.

Joseph Rothchild –  Observer from Massachusetts

 

Time: 5/20/2017 10:30pm EDT; Location: ATMoB Clubhouse
Bortle Scale: 6; NELM: 5; Transparency: Good; Seeing: Average
Telescope: 10-inch f/5 Reflector 

I managed to locate M98 after several minutes of star hopping from Denebola in Leo. This is the first Deep Sky Object that I’ve attempted on my own in a non-goto telescope. It was quite a challenging learning experience. The galaxy did not jump out at me after initially finding the surrounding star pattern, so I doubted myself for a while until I finally spotted it.

I found that my 25mm eyepiece presented the best view at 51x, with a 1.38º FOV.   Using direct vision the core of M98 showed up as a faint glow. Viewing with averted vision, I was able to see a thin elliptical patch aligned with of a chain of three stars to its SE and two stars to its NW.

A bright magnitude 5 star, 6 Comae Berenices, lies 1/2º due east of the galaxy. Chris Elledge – Observer from Massachusetts 

 

M98

Site: Cherry Springs State Park, Coudersport, PA
May 15, 2017
NELM: 6
Seeing: Excellent
Transparency: Excellent

I observed M98 with a Celestron 8SE SCT, and a Meade zoom EP set to 21 mm, for a magnification of 97x.  

This is a delicate and wispy fried egg of a galaxy; at the time I noted, “reminds one of M108; more pronounced west; upward curve East.”

Craig Sandler – Observer from Lexington, Massachusetts 

M98 Galaxy in Coma Berenices 

May 1967 using a 6-inch reflector @ 59x was large, elongated, located 1/2º east of the 5th mag. star, 6 Coma.  

1991 – using a 3-inch reflector @ 39x:  Large, elongated and diffuse.

1992 – With poor transparency ~ 4.0 NELM using a 60 mm refractor @ 21x could not see.
 
1993 – Using 12 x 50 binoculars could not see, however, galaxies M99 and M100 could be glimpsed.  
 
Gus Johnson – Observer from A Delaware  

The 2017 Southern Star Astronomy Convention Hosted by The Charlotte Amateur Astronomer’s Club.

Posted April 29, 2017 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

http://charlotteastronomers.org/southernstar/

The following is a brief review and a few photos of the 31st Annual Southern Star Astronomy Convention.  It was great catching up with old friends and also making a few new ones.  This was another great event in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains at Wildacres, a private retreat near Little Switzerland, North Carolina. 

Time passes so fast and life is both unpredictable and fleeting….however, lets try our best to meet again next year.  Roger Ivester 

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A picture of me (Roger Ivester) with Al Nagler, signing my copy of “1000+ The Amateur Astronomer’s Field Guide to Deep-Sky Observing” by the late Tom Lorenzin.  Al Nagler and Tom Lorenzin were very good friends.  Lorenzin later developed an updated 2000+ digital software package.    

The Tele Vue Gibraltar Alt-Az Mount has the 2000+ database by Tom Lorenzin.  Lorenzin passed away unexpectedly in August 2015.  Tom was a friend and I learned a lot from him over the years.  I listened carefully….

Probably very few “1000+ Amateur Field Guides” with a personal note and autograph by both Tom Lorenzin and Al Nagler.  I’ll always cherish my 25 year old Atlas which Tom signed in a cow pasture back in 1993, and now Al Nagler, 2017 in Little Switzerland, North Carolina.   Roger 

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Al Nagler with his wife, Judi….genuine, good and kind people.     

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Charlotte Amateurs very own Jim Lamm presiding over the meeting, and also a photo with Nagler. 

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Al Nagler with longtime member of the Charlotte Amateur’s, Gayle Riggsbee, a multiple winner at Stellafane over several years.

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Featured Speaker:  Dr. John Mather NASA 

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Featured speaker and former observing partner, Tom English.  (Roger Ivester) 

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Speakers:  Drs. Jay Pasachoff and John Mather enjoying the event.  

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Featured speaker Dr. Brad Barlow, enjoying a conversation with Southern Star Attendee, Megan Gialluca “Astronomical League Promising Young Astronomer 2016”

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Time to eat!  Wildacres retreat has incredible food!

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A photo of the surrounding mountains, looking toward Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi @ 6,684 feet.   (Debbie Ivester)

My wife Debbie with our Dachshund, Nova Sophia “Sophie” at Wildacres.  We had a great day!    

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More photos of beautiful Wildacres Retreat, as following:    

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During the event I was fortunate to meet and talk with Chris Waldrup from Tennessee who is interested in being a part of the Las Vegas Astronomical Society Observers Challenge report.  Chris had two full books of pencil sketches and notes.  My kind of amateur:  Visual observer, pencil sketches and notes!  

https://rogerivester.com/category/observers-challenge-reports-complete-all-reports-from-2009/

https://rogerivester.com/category/2017-2016-2015-2014-2013-2012-2011-2010-2009-observers-challenge-objects-list/

Roger Ivester 

 

Recommended Reading: June 2017 Edition of Sky & Telescope Magazine’s “Focal Point” by Science Editor, Camille Carlisle

Posted April 25, 2017 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

Sky and Telescope’s science editor Camille Carlisle has written an excellent “Focal Point” in the June 2017 edition (page 84) of Sky & Telescope Magazine.  

Camille has beautifully articulated that both God and Science can coexist.

 I’ve included a few brief excerpts from that article as following:   

“It’s something too many of us forget, that reality has layers.  Occasionally people ask me how I can be Catholic and a science journalist.  The answer is simple:  Truth does not contradict truth.  Both science and religion are a pursuit of truth.  They’re after different aspects of truth, different layers of reality, but they’re still both fundamentally about truth.”

“Trying to prove or disprove God with science is like trying to screw in a flat-head nail with a screwdriver.” 

“So too, trying to “catch” God with science or concluding that He can’t be real because His beautiful universe is too much about drama and too little about perfect engineering…”  

“In my life I, too, have found that God can stand up to any question I throw at Him.  It might take years to find the answer, but it exists.”   Camille M. Carlisle 

From my point of view:  Being a Christian, retired from manufacturing management and having mechanical engineers, medical doctors, and others as both friends and neighbors, none of us have ever had a problem with science and God.  It’s simple…..we believe in both science and God.  

“Such is eminently the right use of the telescope…a more extensive knowledge of the works of the Almighty…of the immediate relation between the wonderful and beautiful scenes which are opened to our gaze, and the great author of their existence.”    T.W. Webb

Roger Ivester

 

Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston (ATMoB) Monthly Meeting #897: April 13, 2017 – Keynote Speaker: Kevin Collins Shares His Conversion of a 13.1-inch Coulter Dobsonian to an Ultra-Compact

Posted April 22, 2017 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

Revised ATMoB Meeting Video by Christopher Elledge:    

Craig Sandler of Massachusetts Discovers the Fun and Satisfaction of Finding Deep-Sky Objects by Using Good Old Fashioned Star-hopping.

Posted April 15, 2017 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

After 15 years of being a slave to my GOTO systems, last night I located M44, M67 and M68, via good old fashioned “Star-hopping” using a totally manual EQ mount and a S&T Sky Atlas.    

It was a REVELATION!   I now understand the sky….maybe 30 percent better this week than two weeks ago, and I was not a beginner to start with.

My first scope was a Meade ETX 125 Maksutov-Cassegrain, so my observing or self-teaching was about looking up at the sky for awhile, then punching buttons, navigating menu stystems instead of the stars, and centering.  

As of my last two sessions with my manual equatorial mount, I now understand why the GoTo systems are set up the way they are.  More to my point, my relationship with the sky is now very intimate, familiar and satisfying.  It’s really hard to put into descriptive language or words. 

I’d never seen the last object on my list and had to FIGHT for ~15-20 minutes to find it, but LOVED the challenge!  I KNEW I could do it, but it wouldn’t have happened without a wide-field of view.    

I recently purchased an Orion Astroview 120 mm f/5 refractor.  It has a straight through, 6×30 finder, not a 90º diagonal, with a mirror-image non-correct view…..which can be torture.  

The Orion Astroview is a high-quality refractor telescope, but with a very economical price.  Now is this possible?  Yes….apparently it is!  Maybe it does not perform like a designer or “big name” APO, but I find the views to be very acceptable….maybe even great!    

Again…..as I said earlier, I’m re-learning amateur astronomy, and many would say the right way.  I’m now using the finding methods of Messier, Herschel, and so many other great observer’s of the past.  

I must say…..it’s wonderful.   Craig Sandler  

The Doctor talks Books, Books and more Books. An Astronomy Book Review by Daniel Mounsey. Excellent and Enjoyable. Please Take The Time To Watch This YouTube Video.

Posted April 11, 2017 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized