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 became interested in astronomy in the mid-60’s at the age of twelve. One of my older brothers had purchased a 60mm EQ refractor.      

     I grew up in the foothills of North Carolina, in a very rural area.  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.     

     It wasn’t until the mid-70’s that I acquired my very own telescope, a 4 1/4-inch Edmund Newtonian EQ reflector.  This was not my first choice, as I really wanted the 6-inch Super Space Conquerer, but the 4 1/4-inch was the best my budget would allow at that time.    

     However, by this time the fabulous skies of my early years were gone.  I’d moved to an area packed with houses and street lights, but I made the best of the situation and continued to observe.     

     In 1985 a local astronomy club was formed and I became a member with my youngest son, Brad.  This got me back into astronomy after a five year hiatus.  It was Brad that wanted to join the astronomy club.  I’m glad he did.      

      In 1992 I became a much more serious observer, with a new 10-inch EQ Meade reflector.  And fortunately by this time, I was also living in a much darker area.  I began making pencil sketches, which really helped me to become a far better visual observer.  

     I am the 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 15th year in 2023.   All of the reports to-date are included in the following link.

      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” column for twenty years.  As of November 2019, Sue has agreed to help compile and edit the challenge report.  

     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 (February 2016, Pages 54-57) and the Las Vegas Review Journal and other publication, and media.


Saturday morning bike ride, which has been a fairly regular event…weather permitting for many years. This was today (August 6th 2022) with good friends.

Left to right: Mike Ribadeneyra, Mike Keeley, myself, and Todd Anderson.

OPT Telescope Going Out Of Business Sale By Public Auction

Posted May 26, 2023 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

I really hate to hear this, as I’ve purchased quite a bit over the years, including my 6-inch f/6 reflector and my latest or most recent purchase being a Losmandy dovetail. I’ve always been pleased with all of my purchased and received very timely.

They have an incredible inventory for the auction, which will occur on June 13th beginning at 10:30 AM Pacific time, or 1:30 PM EDT.

For the benefit of all, I’m including the following link with all of the particulars, and how to make bids on items.

Proper Balancing Of An Equatorial Mount Is Essential For Proper Tracking And To Avoid Excess Stress On the Motor Or Motors

Posted May 24, 2023 by rogerivester
Categories: Roger's Articles

I’ve had the following manual mount for 32 years, but have seldom used the RA motor, due to the difficulty of proper balancing with the “single 25-pound counter weight.” It is a medium duty, but of very good quality, made in the old Meade facility in Costa Mesa, California.

This mount is sufficient and very stable for this heavy 10-inch reflector, only due to the short pedestal, which also positions me perfectly at the eyepiece when using my astro-chair.

I’ve used it “totally manual” for all this time, as I thought just nudging with my nose to “visually observe” was sufficient, and it has been. But after using my Celestron CGE-Pro mount, over the past couple or so years, it has spoiled me. I’ve now found it almost essential to use RA tracking to properly make a pencil sketch, taking sometimes hours.

So, of only the past few days, I’ve decided to replace the single 25-pound counter weight with two 10-pound weights, and one 5-pound weight, from my gym. And with an extra 2.5-pound weight if needed.

As an adjustment, I’m using 1-inch collars, with a brass threaded rod and brass bolts, cut and filed to length, and a T-handle from Lowe’s Hardware. I’ll replace the brass “straight screwdriver” bolts, when I get another threaded handle, hopefully today.

I’m including some photos of my “multiple weights” for micro-adjusting, and better tracking, which I’ve yet to try out, due to smoke coming down from Canada.

Always use brass bolts as lock-downs against a steel shaft to avoid marring the shaft.

My other mount which I use for my very heavy “solid tube” 10-inch f/4.5 reflector

Note the extra Losmandy 11-pound weight, in addition to the 22-pound standard Celestron counter weight:

Messier 101 Supernova: By Guest Host Mario Motta

Posted May 23, 2023 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

Here is the SN I took in M101 last night (Monday 22, 2023) taken with my 32-inch, using ZWO-ASI6200 camera.

About 4 hours of total imaging, using Lum, R/G/B, and Ha filters, and processed in Pixinsight.

The SN is in the spiral arm in the east (left), and did not put a marker on it as it is bright enough to have a diffraction spike (so self marked!).

Using the face of a clock: The supernova is at an 8:00 position…the bright star with a cross.

(Note: This is processed and should not be used for scientific brightness estimate, only raw images are scientifically valid for that).

However, I estimated from the raw images, about mag. 10.8 currently (pretty much agree with Glenn Chaples’ visual estimate) and easily seen in small telescopes.

NGC 5774/5 Galaxies In Virgo: June 2023 Observer’s Challenge Objects #173

Posted May 18, 2023 by rogerivester
Categories: Work File Only - Observer's Challenge Reports

Mario Motta: Observer from Massachusetts

Attached are my submissions for the June Observer’s Challenge objects, galaxies NGC 5774/5.

An Interesting interacting pair, however for the imagers it was difficult to process, due to the relative brightness of 5775 vs 5774.

Galaxy 5774 was dimer than 5775 and was blown out too bright when processing. I finally solved this by creating individual digital masks for each galaxy, then optimally processing each of them. It will be interesting if visual observers note the brightness difference. (Note: I did not, at this point get a chance to observe visually)

These galaxies are 70 MLY away in virgo, and are interacting pairs. Looking closely you can see a spiral arm on NGC 5774 being pulled out and flowing into NGC 5775. This took some teasing out digitally to preserve this detail in my image. This is similar to the interaction of M51 and the companion. Also, NGC 5775 is well known to have an intense “vertical” magnetic field around the galaxy as seen with the radio VLA.

This image was taken with Lum, R/G/B, and a touch of Ha. about 5 hours imaging in all, then processed in pixinsight with special processing to bring out the faint detail, especially in NGC 5774.

Taken with my 32-inch f/6.5 telescope, and ZWO ASI6200 camera.

Eerie Photos Of Abandoned Astronomical Observatories

Posted May 18, 2023 by rogerivester
Categories: Roger's Articles

A World Of Unused Telescopes

Posted May 17, 2023 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

I have read articles over the years and heard stories about great telescopes in America for one reason or another, sit idle. Some of these telescopes are classic and very old, but still worthy of great things. 

However, some are relatively new and computer controlled, but for reasons, and some very good reasons are no longer used. The following telescope is in an observatory that was “just built in a bad location” about 35 years ago. When the observatory was first built it was in a “fairly isolated” area and actually pretty dark.

The observatory is now surrounded by multiple soccer fields, a baseball field, and multiple tennis courts with a massive number of incredibly very bright LED lightingso very close.  It would have been impossible for anyone at the time of the building of the observatory to have imagined there would be so much growth in the area. 

Light pollution is a major problem for astronomy everywhere, also creating problems for all life forms: 

Unfortunately the same thing has happened to many observatories throughout the country in the past 50 or so years.  And with the increase of high wattage LED lighting….there are very few dark sites left.

The following telescope sits on top of a mountain, but unfortunately the club that owns it has lost access, due to a land sale. I’ve suggested to the club officers, the telescope and all salvable domes and anything else should be disassembled and “at least” put in storage, until another site can be found. However, I have no control over this, but just a logical suggestion.

I have been told, the club is meeting to make a decision on “what to do” at current.

Personal Evolution Of Imaging By Guest Host: Mario Motta

Posted May 16, 2023 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

NGC 4088 – Galaxy In Ursa Major: May Observer’s Challenge Report #172

Posted May 11, 2023 by rogerivester
Categories: Work File Only - Observer's Challenge Reports

Mario Motta: Observer from Massachusetts

I finally had a clear night, as the weather has not be good in Massachusetts.

Cruel joke by God, placed the best galaxies in the spring, and the worst weather in the spring. NGC 4088, a galaxy about 51 MLY away, may be a barred spiral tilted to our line of sight.

It took two nights to collect the subs due to intermittent clouds.

I used RGB (1.5 hours), and LUM filters 75 minutes), then added Ha (30 minutes) as well for Ha nebulae regions. All taken with my 32-inch f/6.5 telescope from Gloucester MA, and with ZWO-ASI 6200 camera.

Processed in Pixinsight.

Roger Ivester: Observer from North Carolina

NGC 4088 was much easier than galaxy NGC 3044, which was the April challenge object.  However, NGC 4088 is still “extremely” faint. It has low surface brightness, highly diffuse and elongated. I could see this galaxy, but with difficulty despite a 4.8 NELM. 

Since I was using my GoTo mount, for this galaxy which made it much easier.  I used a three star alignment, rather than my normal two, which improves the pointing accuracy, and put the galaxy in the center of my FOV.  I’ve found it much easier if I know an extremely faint deep-sky object is in the center of the field. 

It was a cold night (March 14, 2023) and breezy, but with very low humidity. Years ago, this night might allowed me to see the galaxy much better and easier, but light pollution has increased in my suburban back yard over the past 40 years.

However, my observations prove, that even very faint galaxies can be successfully observed from a moderately light polluted city back yard. And it’s been years since I took a telescope to a dark site.

I really like the convenience of observing from my back yard for obvious reasons. It’s difficult for me to load a solid tube, very heavy 10-inch equatorially mounted telescope and with all supporting equipment, and driving to a dark site.

Yes, I have smaller telescopes, but the process of loading and unloading any telescope and equipment and driving 30 or more minutes to, and back from the South Mountains is still very time consuming and labor intensive.

Mark Helton: Observer from Massachusetts

NGC 4088, galaxy in Ursa Major 

Imaged from Ipswich, MA with a bortle 4/5

50 180 sec images at gain 100 -10 cooling bin 1×1
20 dark frames
25 flat frames
30 bias frames

Camera: ZWO533MCPRO no filter
Mount: Ioptron HEM44EC
Telescope: Celestron C-8 with .63 FF 1450mm f/7.1
Processed in Pixinsight and Photoshop

Really enjoyed imaging this target and the region around it.  There are a lot of points in this image that are much further away than these galaxies!

Larry McHenry: Observer from Pittsburgh

The 44° inclined spiral galaxy NGC4088 is located in the constellation of Ursa Major – “The Great Bear”, about 3.4° from the bright Big Dipper bowel star +2.5 mag Gamma Ursa Major (Phad).

This bright, deep-sky galaxy is about 51.5 million light-years distant, with a diameter of about 65,000 ly. 

It is considered to form a physical pair with nearby spiral galaxy NGC 4085, and are both members of the M109 galaxy cluster. NGC 4088 is also cataloged as peculiar galaxy Arp 18, (Spiral with detached segments), and displays a number of prominent knots in its spiral arms.

NGC 4088 (H1 206) was discovered on the night of March 9th, 1788 by William Herschel using his 20 ft reflector, from his home at Slough near Windsor Castle. (NGC 4085 was discovered a year later on April 12th, 1789).


Left-hand video-observation: 06/04/2013, from the Cherry Springs Star Party at Cherry Springs State Park, PA, using a 6-inch RC optical tube @ f/5 on a GEM mount, with a CCD analog B/W camera and IR filter, 20-second single unguided exposure. (North is up in the cropped image) NGC 4088 is above center, while the much smaller and more highly inclined spiral galaxy NGC 4085 is below center.

Right-hand video-observation: 05/30/2022, from the Cherry Springs Star Party at Cherry Springs State Park, PA, using an 8-inch SCT optical tube @ f/6.3 on a GEM mount, with a CMOS color camera and broadband filter, 180-second guided exposure, live-stacked for 30 minutes. (North is up in cropped image) Dwarf spiral galaxy MCG 92092 in lower left corner.

Using EAA techniques: The odd-shaped inclined spiral stands out well from the star field. What appears to be a stubby, detached spiral arm with a bright H-II knot extends to the NW. A number of other bright H-II regions can be found in the tight arms to both the north and south of the oval core of the galaxy.  

Phil Orbanes: Observer from Massachusetts

This unusual spiral is found in Ursa Major and is among the 50 or so galaxies of the M109 group.

One of its arms appears disconnected when viewed through large telescopes, and for this reason has earned a place in Alton Arp’s Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies. NGC 4088 lies 51 million light years away. My RBG photo includes about 5 hours of imaging per channel with my 14-inch Planewave reflector and FLI 16803 CCD camera.

Mircea Pteancu: Observer from Romania

Mircea Pteancu of Arad, Romania

affiliated to Hungarian Astronomical Assoc., Romanian Society for Cultural Astronomy, 

“Galaxies” Astronomy Club, moderator on forum.

At my observation site, the weather this Spring has been terrible for deep-sky observing, with  the sky being almost permanently cloudy and or hazy. 

I had only one opportunity to observe galaxy NGC 4088, being on March 21. The telescope used was my “SkyWatcher Classic 250P” Dobsonian reflector at 171x in a 28 arc minute field.  My sketch was obtained with a 7mm UWA eyepiece. The observation site used provides a Bortle5/6 sky in good conditions. However, on the evening of the observation, haze and thin clouds were present in the atmosphere and I think it affected the magnitude limit of my telescope by one class.

A summary of my observation session can be viewed here:

The galaxy NGC 4088 is located in the same field with the variable star HZ UMa. The object have in my telescope has a hazy aspect, pretty homogeneous with luminosity being over the entire surface. I detected only a slight increase of brightness toward its center. NGC 4088 has an oval shape, the long axis being oriented toward PA 30° to 40º and equal in length to the distance between stars marked as “a”   and “b”. 

I estimated the short axis of the galaxy to be about 60% to 70 % of the long one. 

In the same 28’ field with NGC 4088, there is a much smaller and dimmer galaxy, NGC 4085.

Located to the South of NGC 4088, and really close to the variable star HZ UMa, NGC 4085 is much more difficult to see. I could only see with averted vision. Except for its existence and approximate location, I have been unable to derive a size and shape for NGC 4085.

The brightest stars in the visual field were the stars HZ UMa and the nearby star HD 105072 of magnitude 8.64.

The dimmest star in the field was the one marked “b” on the drawing, of magnitude 12.29.

I used for this report…data according to Simbad through Aladin Lite. When preparing this report, the star HD 105072 awakened my “hunter attention” because I learned through interrogation of CDS portal this is a “Double or Multiple Star”. The site “” confirmed this. The separation would be within the proven capability of my telescope but the companion being of magnitude 13.06, not much hope. 

While still in Aladin Lite I did not find informations about an object of stellar aspect, located to the west of the visual field, between two stars of 10.05 and 11.37 magnitudes, respectively. It is probably a not catalogued star. Who knows? Very fine field!

Ionel and Armand, two members of our club who attended the observation, saw NGC 4088 also.

Armand, who is a very keen visual observer (and much younger) saw NGC 4085 much easier than myself. However, this was not reason for sadness to me, because he is my pupil. I am proud that I have contributed to him becoming a very good visual observer!

Pencil Sketch Of The Tarantula Nebula By Visual Observer Magda Streicher In South Africa

Posted May 11, 2023 by rogerivester
Categories: Roger's Articles

Tarantula Nebula in the constellation Dorado

NGC 2070

RA: 05h 38m Dec. -69º 06 mins.

NGC 3044 Galaxy In Sextans: April 2023 Observer’s Challenge Report #171

Posted April 25, 2023 by rogerivester
Categories: Work File Only - Observer's Challenge Reports