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 beside  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 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.  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. 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 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.  And 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 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 reflector, a Palomar Jr. 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 was $159.50 in 1976, which 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. And by this time, the fabulous skies of my early years were gone. I’d moved to an area packed with houses and street lights.  

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, I was 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, 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 I 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 other publications.  

https://rogerivester.com/2016/12/04/mount-potosi-observing-complex-las-vegas-astronomical-society-an-aerial-photo-by-james-yeager-pilot-american-airlines/

Astronomy blogger since 2010.   http://www.rogerivester.com 

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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Famous Astronomer Quotes: By Guest Host James Mullaney

Posted February 18, 2019 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

“The study of the heavens from a purely aesthetic point of view is scorned in this technological age.”- James Muriden

“The serene art of visual observing.” – Lee Cain

“I would rather freeze and fight off mosquitoes than play astronomy on a computer.” – Ben Funk

“The high-tech devices pervading the market are ruining the spirit of the real meaning of recreational astronomy.” – Jorge Cerritos

“Whatever happened to what amateur astronomers really care about – simply enjoying the beauty of the night sky?” – Mark Hladik

“To me, astronomy means learning about the universe by looking at it.” – Daniel Weedman

“Nobody sits out in the cold dome any more – we’re getting further and further away from the sky all the time.  You just sit in the control room and watch monitors.” Charles Kowal (Palomar Obs.)

“All galaxies deserve to be stared at for a full 15 minutes.” – Michael Covington

“Every tint that blooms in the flowers of Summer flames out in the stars at night.” J.D. Steele (ref. especially to double stars)

“But let’s forget the astrophysics and simply enjoy the spectacle. ” Scotty Houston

“I became an astronomer not to access the facts about the sky but to see and feel its majesty.” – David Levy

“The feeling of being alone in the universe on a starlit night, cruising on wings of polished glass, flitting in seconds from a point millions of miles away to one billions of lightyears distant is euphoric.” Tom Lorenzin

“…the fun of sight-seeing, the sheer joy of firsthand acquaintance with incredibly wonderful and beautiful things.” – Robert Burnham

“One gentle dose of starlight to be taken each night just before retiring.” – Leslie Peltier

“To me, telescope viewing is primarily an aesthetic experience.” Terry Dickinson

“Spend your nights getting intoxicated with photons!” – Telescope Advertisement

“Time spent with 2-billion-year-old photons is potent stuff.” – Peter Lord

“I am because I observe. ” Thaddeus Banachiewicz

“The views are so incredibly fantastic!” – Jack Newton

“When you’re in the observer’s cage of the 200-inch…it’s romantic, beautiful, marvelous.” – Jesse Greenstein (Palomar Observatory)

“Observing all seems so natural, so real, so obvious.  How could it possibly be any other way?” Jerry Spevak

“A night under the stars rewards the bug bites, the cloudy skies, the next-day fuzzies, and the thousands of frustrations with priceless moments of sublime beauty.” – Richard Berry

“And there’s always that special pleasure  in knowing that, when you look upon that distant light,
it has traveled all those lightyears – such an incredible journey – just for you.” – Ken Fulton

“Gazing into the beginning of everything, we are young once again. ” Ron Evans

“But it is to be hoped that [someone] will carry out the author’s idea and study the whole visible heavens from what might be termed a picturesque point of view.” – T.W. Webb

“This book is an effort to rescue the ancient love of simple stargazing from the avalanche of mathematics and physics under which modern astronomy threatens to bury it.” – Henry Neely

“But are silent worship and contemplation the very essence of stargazing?” – David Levy

“To gaze into space is to embark upon a spiritual quest, an experience of awe and wonder.” – Roger Ressmeyer

“How can a person ever forget the scene, the glory of a thousand stars in a thousand hues….” – Scotty Houston

“Delightful planetary nebulae – ephemeral spheres that shine in pale hues of blue and green and float amid the golden and pearly star currents of our Galaxy on the foam of the Milky Way like the balloons of our childhood dreams.  If you want to stop the world and get off, the lovely planetaries sail by to welcome you.” – Scotty Houston

“The celestial actors are in place, a serene majesty washes over the stage, and I can almost hear the music of galactic trumpets in their opening bar.”- Scotty Houston (anticipating his death that happened shortly after he wrote this??)

And not lastly or least, the following is by a contemporary amateur, who has always claimed to be nothing more than a humble backyard observer, and a good friend of mine for any years.  A cofounder of the Observer’s Challenge report, which has traveled around the world and back, and will celebrate its 120th consecutive monthly report, February 2019.  An amazing contribution to amateur astronomy for sure!  

“Sharing Observations and Bringing Amateur Astronomers Together” – Roger Ivester  (Observer’s Challenge) https://rogerivester.com/category/observers-challenge-reports-complete-all-reports-from-2009/

Memories of “The World’s Greatest Non-Professional Astronomer” By Guest Host, James Mullaney

Posted January 22, 2019 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

Memories of “The worlds greatest non-professional astronomer”  

That’s how Harvard Observatory director Harlow Shapley in 1934 described the famed variable star observer and comet discoverer Leslie Peltier.  His wonderful and inspiring classic, Starlight Nights, is without a doubt the greatest and most significant (at least to amateur astronomy) book that I’ve ever read.  I reviewed the original hardcover edition for the February, 1966, issue of Sky & Telescope, and shortly afterward had the privilege of visiting him and his two observatories. 

I held his famed “strawberry spyglass” in my hands while we talked in his living room and then adjourned to the dining room where his wife Dottie had prepared a gastronomic Sunday dinner feast.  Afterward we went to his observatories, where he offered to let me sit in the chair of his famed rotating observatory.

His book takes you back to a simpler and saner time in life, now sadly long gone.  I re-read it several times a year to help keep my sanity amid the chaos of this troubled world.  There are many profound quotes throughout the book, but this one seems especially appropriate to what we are doing to our beautiful Mother Earth today:  “So much that man touches he destroys.”

Having personally known him, I’m quite sure that Leslie would so approve of the amazing contribution to the subject and amateur astronomy in general, as the “Observer’s Challenge” series.  Want to know more about the Observer’s Challenge?   Click on the following link….

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

Jim Mullaney

PS: Leslie was also the inspiration for my own life’s work culminating in my book Celebrating the Universe!   (HayHouse.com)

 

Debbie Ivester: My First Photo of The Moon Using an iPhone. I’m Now Ready To Go To Another Level and Attempt to Use My DSLR Camera With An Orion 80 mm (Model CT80) f/5 Refractor. Lots to Learn. I’ll Post My Results When Available.

Posted January 22, 2019 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

I was using an iPhone 10 and a 6-inch f/6 imaging Newtonian reflector telescope, with a 24 mm eyepiece for a magnification of 38x.  After focusing the telescope on the moon, I then handheld the phone up to the telescope eyepiece.  This was a bit more difficult than I would have thought.  

The phone had to be perfectly aligned over the telescope eyepiece, while looking at the phone screen, which required some slight moving around until the moon was visible.  Then a light tap on the phone shutter button, and there was an image of the moon.  Pretty incredible!  A bit of practice was required to get this right. 

Unfortunately some high cirrus clouds began covering the moon.  I chose to use the following photo, despite the clouds as this was my best.  I’ll try again on a better night.  It was also really cold!  

It would have been great if I’d tried this during the lunar eclipse.  

Many thanks to Roger for helping me accomplish this goal on a very cold night…I just wish we’d been able to have done this Sunday night.  We just didn’t know!  

Also, thank you to Richard Nugent of Boston for the post of the Lunar Eclipse that spawned my appetite to be interested in making a photo using an iPhone  and a telescope.  

This is not a big deal to serious astrophotographers, but I’d just always wanted to take a photo of the moon.    

Debbie Ivester 

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Roger helped me set the telescope up and get ready earlier in the evening.  With our Dachshund, Nova Sophia “Sophie” who wants to do everything with us.  Debbie Ivester

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Just received my T-ring and adapter, and have attached my DSLR to an 80 mm f/5 Orion (Model CT80) refractor.  I’m now ready to go to the next step, and will post my results when available.   Debbie 

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NGC 2175: Reflection Nebula in Orion – February 2019 Observer’s Challenge Object #120

Posted January 7, 2019 by rogerivester
Categories: Observer's Challenge Reports

 If you have identification questions concerning reflection nebula NGC 2175, the following information by Sue French will be of value during your observation.   

NGC 2174 is a brighter knot in the northern part of NGC 2175.  The existence of a true cluster within NGC 2175 is dubious, but the visually involved stars are nonetheless known as Collinder 84.   Sue French

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Hi Roger, learning curve to do mosaic well in Pixinsight, but here is my effort.

This is a composite of east and western end of the monkey.
This one only includes Ha and O3 data, S2 could not be incorporated in the composite due to eastern end getting clouds at that time.  So…came out OK, I think.
The following image is about 5 -6 hours total sub time to get. Strl 1001E camera (field of view 17×17 arc minutes per sub) the combo spans about 30 arc minutes. Taken with my 32 inch f/6, 4800mm FL, several nights work
Mario 

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Pencil Sketch by Roger Ivester

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Pencil sketch with colors inverted:

rogers ngc-2175 inverted

Date: January 9, 2019; Conditions: Excellent; NELM 5.2 

Telescope: 10-inch f/4.5 Newtonian reflector; Elapsed time for this object:  Three hours;  Sketch Magnification: 57x; Filter:  O III; Field of View: 1.1º – 66 arcminutes;  Addition magnification, without filter: 95x 

At 57x, using a 20 mm eyepiece, plus O III, the nebula was very easy to locate and see, however, almost invisible without the filter.  The nebula is brightest and more concentrated around the central mag. 7.5 star.  Dark lanes are abundant throughout the nebula, especially looping around the south edge.  With averted vision, NGC 2174, a nebulous patch could be observed on the NW corner, however, not constant.  A small cluster of stars to the ENE of NGC 2175, has the appearance of having nebulosity.  When removing the O III filter, and increasing the magnification to 95x, and with averted vision, many faint stars began to appear within the nebula as shown in my sketch.  Roger Ivester   

 

Image provided by David Blanchette from Las Vegas:  North is up and west to the right.  Telescope and equipment:  8-inch Explore Scientific Newtonian Astrograph, Canon Rebel T7i, 50x60s, ISO 6400, Baader UHC-S filter, Deep-Sky Stacker. 

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Observation notes by Sue French:

I hope to sketch this for the Observer’s Challenge, but in the meantime here are my past logs for NGC 2175:

 

3-1-91, 9:00 PM EST, 10-inch/f6 homemade Newtonian, 32mm Plössl+ O III filter, Seeing: fair, Transparency: good, Aurora

Large, faint, mottled nebula containing a 7.6-magnitude star in a rich field of fainter stars.  About one-half degree in diameter.

 

2-12-96, Winter Star Party, 11:00 PM EST, 105mm AP Traveler prototype, 13mm Nagler, Seeing: fair, Transparency: good

Very nice nebula about 20 arcminutes in diameter. Obvious without filter, but better with the PTR Optics narrowband filter and even better with an O III filter. 7.6-magnitude star near center plus about a dozen faint stars superimposed. Slight mottling to nebula with hints of some dark lanes.

 

3-1-96, 9:35 PM EST, 10-inch/f6 homemade Newtonian, 35mm Panoptic, O III filter, Seeing: fair, Transparency: good

A large, round glow through the O III filter, about 23 arcminutes across.  Despite the outlines in Uranometria, the nebula looks pretty much centered on the 7.6-magnitude star embedded within. The nebula brightens gradually toward the center.  The view is similar with a UHC filter, but not quite as contrasty. Without a filter, the nebula is subtle. It has a dusting of faint stars across it.

 

12-23-16, 12:40 AM EST, My great-nephew’s 8-inch Orion Intelliscope in North Carolina

Visible in 9×50 finder with a 7.6-magnitude star embedded near center.

22mm Nagler: Large, easy to see.  The star near the center is in a star chain that has a prominent hump to the east.  Subtle dark nebulae thread the glow.  Many superimposed stars. The nebula shows nicely when adding a UHC filter.  Somewhat irregular in shape.  The Sh2-252 E nebulous knot doesn’t show particularly well, but it has a superimposed star near its center, too. O III filter makes the nebula seem quite bright to a diameter of 22 arcminutes.

9mm Nagler: The unrelated cluster Pismis 27 (sometimes called NGC 2175.1) shows 6 fairly bright stars in a SSE-NNW bunch, plus a half-dozen faint stars.  Overall the group spans about 4.2 arcminutes.

 

1-30-17, 8:40 PM EST, 10-inch/f5.8 homemade Newtonian, Seeing and Transparency; fair, snowcover, 14°F. breezy

2175 is visible through the 9×50 finder as a distinct sizable glow around a star.

22mm Nagler: The nebula is subtle. Pismis 27 shows 9 stars.  Adding a UHC filter shows a beautiful, large nebula threaded with dark lanes.  The northern border is particularly irregular.  The nebulosity covers about  25 arcminutes.  There’s a very small, brighter patch (Sh2-252 E) 3.2 arcminutes ENE of the star.  The bright patch contains a star and has a pair of matched (m = 10.6, 10.7) stars 2.1 arcminutes north.  There may be a touch of nebulosity in Pismis 27.

22mm Nagler + O III filter: Also makes the nebula stand out well, but I prefer the UHC, which shows off the lines and chains of stars meandering across the nebula.

13mm Nagler: Pismis 27 shows 15 stars in about 4½ × 3 arcminute group running approximately north-south. Includes the close double J1922.

 

My first mention of NGC 2175 in my S&T column, which was then called Small-Scope Sampler, in the February 2004 issue:

Another nice nebula, NGC 2175, sits 1.4º east-northeast of Chi2 (c2) Orionis.  In my little refractor at 47x, I find the nebula obvious without a filter.  However, a narrowband filter betters the view and an OIII filter helps even more.  An 8th-magnitude star is visible near the center, and a dozen faint stars are superimposed.  The nebula is slightly mottled and shows hints of dark lanes.

 

NGC 2175 is sometimes plotted as an open cluster in star atlases while the designation NGC 2174 is given to the nebula.  Neither is correct.  NGC 2175 was discovered sometime in the mid-1800s by the German astronomer Carl Christian Bruhns and first reported by Arthur Auwers who described it as an 8th-magnitude star within a large nebula.

 

NGC 2174 is actually a bright knot of nebulosity in the northern edge of NGC 2175.  It was discovered at Marseille Observatory by Édouard Stephan, widely recognized for the group of galaxies that bears his name – Stephan’s Quintet.  Folks with larger scopes might like to hunt for NGC 2174 and for the even brighter knot Sh 2-252 E, respectively located 11′ north-northwest and 3.3′ east-northeast of the 8th-magnitude star.

 

The existence of an open cluster within the nebula seems debatable.  It was the Swedish astronomer Per Collinder who first noted a cluster here and mistakenly equated it with NGC 2175.  The cluster’s proper designation should then be Collinder 84, but there doesn’t appear to be an obvious concentration of stars within the nebula.  Collinder 84 is supposed to consist of the clumps of stars loosely scattered across most of NGC 2175.  Does it look like a cluster to you?

Sue French

 

 

NGC 1514 – Planetary Nebula In Taurus – the “Crystal Ball Nebula” January 2019 Observer’s Challenge Object

Posted December 16, 2018 by rogerivester
Categories: Observer's Challenge Reports

JANUARY 2019 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-1514

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

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I’ve observed NGC 1514 thrice with my 15-inch f/4.5 reflector, and it’s wonderfully complex.  The sketch was made at 216× with a UHC filter.  I may not have gotten all the lumps and bumps in exactly the right place, but it gives the general impression.   Sue French  

Inverted pencil sketch:  SF

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Positive pencil sketch:  SF 

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Pencil sketch by Roger Ivester

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Inverted pencil sketch

Rogers NGC-1514 Inverted

Seeing was excellent, but with a 74% illuminated moon.  I set my 10-inch reflector in the backyard, using my house to shield the direct light from the moon.  Having no idea what to expect under these conditions, I started out with 57x, and without a filter.  It was easy to see the 9th magnitude central star, with some faint surrounding nebulosity.  I then went to 208x and a UHC filter, and the nebula really came alive!  The only two stars visible in the field, are two ~8th mag. stars…one to the north and the other south.  The nebula has greater concentration to the north, which can seen in my sketch.  The edges are irregular and uneven, and the nebula has a very subtle N-S elongation.   

Roger Ivester 

                                                                                   

 

NGC 1514 in Taurus is sometimes called the “Crystal Ball Nebula,”  But I have coined the name “Herschel’s Revelation” as being far more significant.  This is the object that convinced Sir William that nebulae were real and not, as was the belief then, just masses of unresolved stars.  His profound insight came at seeing the clear separation of the surrounding nebula from the obvious central star.  Yet another of Herschel’s many amazing observations based solely on the visual appearance of an object in his telescopes.  Jim Mullaney 

NGC 1003 – Galaxy In Perseus: Observer’s Challenge Report #118 – December 2018

Posted December 7, 2018 by rogerivester
Categories: Observer's Challenge Reports

The Observer’s Challenge Report in its entirety:

december 2018 observers challenge – ngc-1003

Notes and sketch by Sue French from New York:

I went out on December 4th to observe NGC 1003, which was my first clear, moonless night since October 30th.  Apparently the weather gods have a wry sense of humor, since this was my wedding anniversary.  We took out my homemade 254/1494mm Newtonian (10-inch f/5.8).  The seeing was fair, the transparency good, and the ground was covered with snow. 

The night was slightly breezy and the temperature 19 ºF.  At 68×NGC 1003 is a faintly visible oval near a 10th-magnitude star to its west-southwest.  At 187× the galaxy is nearly uniform in brightness, and a faint star appears along its northern flank. The galaxy looks more flocculent at 299×, and a slightly brighter region rests between the two flanking stars. The sketch was done at this magnification.   Sue French 

Re: Comet 46P Wirtanen:

We also looked at Comet 46P Wirtanen through Alan’s 15×50 image-stabilized binoculars.  

Pencil sketch by Sue French: 

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Pencil sketch by Roger Ivester using a 10-inch Newtonian reflector @ 114x, from a 5.0 NELM location.  

NGC 1003

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NGC 1003 image by Mario Motta from Massachusetts:

Equipment:  SBIG 100E camera and 32-inch f/6 

I could’t use many subs, had some tracking issues and need to work on my declination axle motor to worm coupling. The tracking seems to bounce a bit N-S, and stars are a  bit bloated, so this is not my best effort.  The time was about 40 minutes for a total of 5 min subs only.  Mario 

NGC1003

 

NGC 1003 image by Doug Paul from Massachusetts:

400mm camera lens f/2.8, iso800, 73subsx30s=36.5min, 100% scale.  Doug 

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A Refractor Telescope Story, By Guest Host, Sue French, New York

Posted November 12, 2018 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

Roland Christen and I met in 1980 at Stellafane and became friends. Sometime later, Roland said he had two sets of NASA glass to make triplet refractors.  He planned to make one lens for himself and sell the second set of glass.  I talked him into selling it to Alan. 

Alan still hadn’t gotten around to making the lens by 1987, so I said that I knew Roland would like to see that lens in a scope, and if Alan wasn’t going to tackle it himself, we should ask Roland how much he’d want to turn it into a lens for us.  Roland made us promise to take the scope to the next Stellafane. It took us quite a while to get a tube, and after that we only had a few months before the convention.  I was still painting parts at the motel we were staying at when we got to Stelli.   Sue French 

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