Roger Ivester: Amateur Astronomer

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

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


      I 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 quite a bit of learning to do, which continues to this day.     

     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 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.  


Just had to include a photo of my other hobby….cycling.  I’ve been fortunate to have logged more than 143,000 lifetime miles, as of 2019.      





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


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 east 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 right. 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.    James Dire





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  (Telescope, camera, write-up later)







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…

View original post 350 more words

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

NGC 188 – A Very Faint and Difficult Open Cluster, and so Close to Polaris

Posted April 30, 2020 by rogerivester
Categories: Work File Only - Observer's Challenge Reports

Image by James Dire:  Observer from Illinois 

Telescope:  5.2-inch f/7 apochromatic refractor, 25 minute exposure with an SBIG ST-2000XCM CCD camera.  Date of image:  April 26th 2020 



Visual Notes by Sue French:  Observer from New York 

I’ve logged NGC 188 only twice:  By Sue French 

7-10-02, 10:25pm EDT, 105/610mm refractor, 87×, Seeing: fair, 

Transparency: good

About 30 faint to extremely faint stars in 17′. Slightly patchy background hits at unresolved stars. Inconspicuous.

 5-25-06, 2am EDT, 10-inch f/5.9 Newtonian, 68×, Seeing: poor, 

Transparency: fair

In a pretty field of bright stars.  Large, about 14′.  Nice cluster.  About 40 faint to very faint stars over patchy haze.

You’ll notice that my estimated size is different between the two observations.  Brent Archinal gives this a size of 15′.   


Visual Notes by Uwe Glahn:  Observer from Germany 

 4-inch binocular:  Magnification 23x, NELM 6.0 

     Stands out nicely from the background, visible with direct vision, large diffuse glow without any concentration, half-dozen stars are popping in and out of view within the cluster. 

 16-inch  NELM 6.5+

     Nearly fully resolved, very many (>50) faint mag. 14 stars with similar brightness, OC without any concentration or structures, some background glow.  

Pencil sketch:  20 x 125 binoculars and a 3º field of view. 



Rony De Laet:  Observer from Belgium 

The existence of this cluster was brought to my attention, back in 2005, when I became interested in sketching the Caldwell Objects. 

NGC 188 is the first entry in the Caldwell list, which is a list that orders objects from highest declination to lowest. Much to my surprise NGC 188 was located near Polaris, a convenient location to observe from my backyard. At that time, I had a computer controlled 105mm f/14 Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope. 

I was pretty sure that my scope was pointed in the right direction, but when I looked into my 25mm EP…nothing but an empty field.  This was weird.  The cluster’s magnitude was rated at 8! That should have been a piece of cake, as I’d  sketched dimmer objects like M56. 

I read James O’Meara’s notes on Caldwell 1 a few hours earlier.  He even mentioned seeing the cluster with a small pair of binoculars.  Just to be sure, I sketched the stars in the field of view, but I wanted to know what went wrong. 

I believe there are two reasons why NGC 188 was beyond my reach. 

The first reason:  The majority of the stars are below the limiting magnitude of my telescope.  From my backyard, I could not see stars fainter than mag 12.5 with my 4-inch Maksutov-Cassegrain.  

The second reason is that NGC 188 is relatively large, so its combined brightness is spread over a large area, compared to a globular cluster like M56.  I had bad luck, that this cluster’s combined brightness was lower than the sky’s background brightness. 

Here are my notes and sketch from then.

Telescope:  4-inch Maksutov-Cassegrain 

Location : Bekkevoort, Belgium

Date:  November 1, 2005 , 20.45UT

Seeing:  2.5 on a scale of 5, Transparency : 3.5

Magnification: 60x

Fov 0.9°

I made the following sketch on a very dark (for my standards) night.  It was not much of a cluster to me in the ETX.  Only the brighter members are visible. The limiting magnitude is 12.5, so I guess this object is just beyond my reach.  

North is down and west is to the left: 



From the early years of the Observer’s Challenge Report: AUGUST 2010 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-188 


Meeting two Very Famous People In Amateur Astronomy

Posted April 28, 2020 by rogerivester
Categories: Roger's Articles

I was honored to have had the opportunity to meet and talk with Al Nagler.  Al is a such a nice and humble gentleman.  The photo shows Al signing a deep-sky observing book.



Listening to the “late” John Dobson, share his thoughts.   A very unique and interesting guy for sure.

John Dobson


A dinner party was held for Dobson during his visit.  I can be seen sitting on the floor and “again” listening to him, tell his many stories.  Most all in my area really enjoyed his visit.  




The Questar 3.5-Inch Telescope Story, Vernonscope/Brandon Eyepieces and a Meade ETX 90 Astro

Posted April 25, 2020 by rogerivester
Categories: Roger's Articles

     Questar Telescopes (Maksutov-Cassegrain) have been built in New Hope, Pennsylvania since 1950.  Questar has chosen Brandon eyepieces for many years, which are also made in the USA.

     Brandon eyepieces are optimized for telescopes with a focal ratio of f/7 or greater.

     The following are some photographs of a friends 3.5-inch Duplex.    



     During the early 50’s, Cave Optical in Long Beach, California, manufactured the 3.5-inch mirrors.

    Questar advertised on the back of the front cover page of “Sky & Telescope Magazine” for decades!

A challenge to Questar?   

     In 1996, Meade Instruments Corporation, introduced the Meade ETX 90mm Astro.  This telescope was designed to be an economy Questar.  Mostly constructed of plastic, but with all the emphasis on the optics.   

     At that time, Meade was manufacturing the ETX, as well as most all of their higher-end telescopes in Irvine, California.     

     I purchased an ETX 90 the following year (1997) for use as a very portable telescope, to observe deep-sky objects within its grasp.  It served that purpose well.  The telescope had very good optics and would easily exceed Dawes’ Limit on double stars on a night with good to excellent seeing. 

     Dawes Limit:  4.56/A (A is aperture in inches) for two equal stars of about 6th magnitude.                                                                                                                                                                                               

     However, when considering fit, finish, cosmetics and ease of use, the ETX “cannot” even remotely compare to the “much” more expensive and precision Questar.  

     The 3.5-inch Questar continues to have its place in astronomy, despite most amateurs of today wanting larger and larger telescopes, but how many telescope companies do you know that have been in business since 1950?

      And from their longtime advertisement in “S&T” the following was said:   “Questar, The World’s Finest, Most Versatile Telescope”

     This must be true, to have survived in the ever-changing world of amateur astronomy equipment for 70 years.  (1950 – 2020)  

      I wrote the following story back in (2012) and it still receives views, even to this day.    Roger Ivester