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 publications.


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

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

Work-File: Used only for organization and editing. When all entries are received (March 8th, 2023) and a final .pdf report will be issued by the 10th.

Posted January 26, 2023 by rogerivester
Categories: Work File Only - Observer's Challenge Reports

Compiled by:

Roger Ivester, North Carolina


French, New York

February 2023

Report #169

The Flame Nebula: NGC 2024 in Orion

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:

William Herschel discovered this fetching nebula with his 18.7-inch, speculum-metal  reflector on 1 January, 1786. His handwritten journal for that night reads: A wonderful milky nebulosity, divided in three or 4 large patches including a dark space, the whole cannot take up less than half a degree; but I suppose it to be much more extensive.

Professor Courtney Seligman’s nifty website gives the following physical information on the nebula: 

Apparent size 30 by 30 arcmin. The “Flame” nebula, near the bright star Alnitak on the eastern side of the “belt” of Orion. Although the apparent closeness of Alnitak to the nebula suggests that its radiation is what lights up the nebula (Alnitak is a hundred thousand times brighter than the Sun, and two thirds of its “light” is ultraviolet radiation that is far more capable than visible light of causing such nebulae to glow), it is actually a foreground object, being only about 800 light years away, while the nebula is about 1500 light years distant. The actual energy source for the nebula is a group of OB stars hidden within its interior in visible light images, which have formed very recently (and in fact other such stars are probably forming within the nebula at the present time, as there is evidence that stars closer to the center of the nebula formed later than those in its outer regions).

The website’s front page is:

Mario Motta: Observer from Massachusetts

NGC 2024, taken with my 32-inch f/6.5 telescope in Gloucester, MA, using my ZWO ASI6200 camera.

For this object which is mostly a reflection nebula, I used Red/Blue/Green filters, but also H alpha as the Luminance, which gave nice added detail as there is some emission in Ha. No significant O3 or S2 emission to be had in NB imaging here.

Total of 3 hours imaging in all. Combined and processed in PixInsight, including the new BlurXterminator, giving crisp detail. My field of view is 24×16 arc minutes.

Larry McHenry: Observer from Pittsburgh

Emission nebula NGC2024 is located in the winter constellation of Orion – ‘The Hunter’.

The HII object, (Sh2-227), known as the “Flame Nebula”, (and also as the “Maple Leaf Nebula” by our northern friends), is about 1,354 light-years light years distant, and is about 6 light-years in diameter, and estimated to be several million years old. The glowing nebula is ionized by UV light from the nearby bright “O” class blue supergiant star Zeta Orionis, known as “Alnitak” one of Orion’s three belt stars. 

Similar to M42, the “Great Orion Nebula”, NGC 2024 is also an interstellar star factory, with a young star cluster containing several hundred stars embedded within the nebula. NGC 2024 is part of the giant Orion Molecular Cloud that contains nearly every bright, dark, and reflection nebula and star cluster visible within the constellation.

NGC2024 was discovered on the night of January 1st, 1786 by William Herschel using his 20-ft reflector, at his home in Slough. Herschel described the object as: “Wonderful black space included in remarkable milky nebulosity, divided in 3 or 4 large patches,,,.”. 


10/30/2020, from Big Woodchuck Observatory backyard in Pittsburgh, PA, using a 60mm refractor @ f/4 on a GEM mount, with a CMOS color camera and narrowband filter, 30-second guided exposure, live-stacked for 40 minutes. 

11/03/2021, from Calhoun County Park in West Virginia, using an 8-inch SCT optical tube @ f/6.3 on a GEM mount, with a CMOS color camera and broadband filter, 60-second guided exposure, live-stacked for 15 minutes. 

The Shortest Day Of The Year In The Northern Hemisphere Is The Winter Solstice: December 21st 2022. See My Humble Work, Measuring The Sun Shadow, As Following: Now See The Sun Shadow Getting Shorter: January 26th 2023

Posted December 21, 2022 by rogerivester
Categories: Roger's Articles

My oldest grandson needed a project for showing the altitude of the Sun, via the shadow. I made my simple solar device in my back yard, and my grandson, fabricated his device near Myrtle Beach. We compared views fairly often, and discussed our results. A fun project for the both of us.

I made the following photos today, at 12:00 noon (December 21st 2022) EST.

The (Blue Mark) represents the Sun Shadow (Today) at “precisely” 12:00 Noon EST, December 21st. At “almost” the end of the scale, which represents the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. A very long shadow for sure!

The (Green Mark) at the (inch-mark #9) was made on the the first day of Fall (September 22nd).

The (White Mark) at the (#2 inch-mark) represents the shadow on the first day of Summer (June 21st) and the longest day of 2022. A very short shadow! This would conclude that the sun is never “perfectly” overhead.

The scale on the ground is perfectly level, and facing North. The shadow post is at 90º.

Nova Sophia (Sophie) looks on with interest…

January 26th 2023 @ 12:00 PM EST: My first photo of the suns shadow which shows the shadow getting shorter.

See photos below: Note the longest shadow, the blue mark, which was made on the first day of Winter, the shortest day of the year.

During DST, the time to measure the shadow should be made at 1:00 PM. During EST, the shadow measurement should be made at 12:00 Noon.

My Sky Atlas’… But My Favorite Is The Smaller Version Of The Pocket Sky Atlas

Posted December 21, 2022 by rogerivester
Categories: Roger's Articles

Since the introduction of the “Pocket Sky Atlas” so many years ago, I have found without exception…this atlas has served me very well.

Easy to use in the dark, and I can use the larger or smaller version equally well. However, I mostly use the smaller edition. I have different ring(s) for each version and to match different finders.

However, as of recent, I’m using my GoTo mount most of the time. Being the purist amateur, never would I have thought after 40 plus years of observing, I would be using a GoTo mount….now most of the time.

No need for an atlas with the following mount. 🙂

NGC 1245 Open Cluster In Perseus: January 2023 Observer’s Challenge Report #168

Posted December 15, 2022 by rogerivester
Categories: Work File Only - Observer's Challenge Reports

Work-File: Used only for organization and editing. When all entries are received (February 8th, 2023) and a final .pdf report will be issued by the 10th.

Mario Motta: Observer from Massachusetts

NGC 1245  reminds me of M11, similar in appearance.

A new deconvolution technique developed by Russell Cromen for PixInsight was just released (December 14th 2022) and this is what I used. It promises much better deconvolution and sharpening of images than anything done before. I was intrigued, so downloaded and tried it out on NGC 1245.

I am including an image of NGC 1245 with BlurX and a previous image for comparison.

This is an AI subroutine that works in pixinsight and corrects star deformity differentially across the field, and sharpens better than before. It is being touted as a “game changer” already by the pixinsight crowd….and so far, I have to agree.

On the BlurX version (first image) note stars are pinpoint actress the field, and some double stars are now cleanly separated. Also note that on the eastern edge (left side) two galaxies have popped into view not seen on original processing. Wow!

Images taken with my 32-inch f/6.5 telescope, R,G.G, and Lum filters, about 2 hours total imaging time, with ZWO ASI6200 camera.

Again….(first image) processed in pixInsight using the new BlurXtermintor plug-In.

Larry McHenry: Observer from Pittsburgh

Open Cluster NGC 1245 is located in the fall constellation of Perseus – “The Hero”.

The cluster is about 9,800 light-years light years distant, and is about 27 light-years in size, and estimated to be about 1 billion years old.

NGC 1245 was discovered on the night of December 11th 1786 by William Herschel using his 20-ft reflector, (18.5-inch speculum-metal mirror), at his home in Slough, near Windsor Castle. Herschel described the object as: “A beautiful compressed rich cluster of small and large stars. The stars arranged in lines like interwoven letters”. 


On 11/21/2022, from Calhoun County Park in West Virginia.  

Using an 8-inch SCT optical tube @ f/6.3 on a GEM mount, with a CMOS color camera and broadband filter, 15-second guided exposure, live-stacked for 5 minutes. 

Using EAA techniques, the moderate rich 8th mag open star cluster NGC 1245 is located next to 7.9 mag star SAO38671. The cluster’s stars are all of similar brightness, with several star-chains visible.

Phil Orbanes: Observer from Massachusetts:

This open cluster was discovered by William Herschel in 1786. It is 27 light years across, contains about 200 stars of 12th magnitude or dimmer, and lies about a billion light years from earth.

My RBG  photo includes 8 hours of imaging, with  my 14-inch Planewave reflector and FLI 16803 CCD camera, evenly divided among the three color channels. 

Roger Ivester: Observer from North Carolina

NGC 1245 – Open Cluster – Perseus 

Telescope:  10-inch f/4.5 Newtonian 

Eyepiece:  11mm 

Sketch Magnification: 104x

Field-of-View:  0.79º

A surprisingly faint cluster, especially from my 4.8 NELM back yard.  My first observation was using a 6-inch f/6 Newtonian, with little to no resolution, just a hazy spot, with a few brighter members.  

With my 10-inch, the cluster is much brighter as expected, when compared to the 6-inch, and with many faint members visible, but only when using a magnification greater than 100x.  The shape of the cluster is mostly irregular, with a few chains of stars being noted.  Mostly dim stars, but very rich.

Iota Cassiopeia – Triple Star: December 2022 Observer’s Challenge Report #167

Posted December 4, 2022 by rogerivester
Categories: Work File Only - Observer's Challenge Reports

December:  Iota (ι) Cas  Triple Star  Cassiopeia; mag=4.6;6.9;9.1; Separation: 2.9″, 7.1″

RA: 02h 29m;  Dec: +67° 24′  

December 2022 Observer’s Challenge Report .pdf final as following:

The Highest “Official” Recorded Temperature In The World Was Set In Death Valley, California: July 10, 1913

Posted November 24, 2022 by rogerivester
Categories: Roger's Articles

My son and granddaughter make frequent trips from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, traveling through Baker, California, via I-15.

Baker is best known for having the tallest thermometer in the world at 134 feet, and considered the gateway to Death Valley.

The thermometer was built to commemorate the “official world” record setting temperature of 134º F, set in nearby Death Valley on July 10, 1913. A record that still stands to this day.

Brad and Zoe took the following photo of the thermometer during a trip on Tuesday, November 22, 2022. The temperature as shown on the thermometer at the time they were there….was a cold 30º F.

Surprising! It gets cold in the desert also!

Roger Ivester

NGC 7184 Galaxy in Aquarius: November 2022 Observer’s Challenge Report #166

Posted November 17, 2022 by rogerivester
Categories: Work File Only - Observer's Challenge Reports

Final .pdf report as following:

IC 342: Galaxy In Camelopardalis, Difficult For The Visual Observer Without A Dark-Site

Posted October 26, 2022 by rogerivester
Categories: Roger's Articles

Mario Motta:  Observer from Massachusetts

This is a very difficult object visually, very faint surface brightness, due in-part to its large size and attenuation from outer spiral arms.The following image was made using my 32-inch f/6.5 telescope, with ASI 6200 camera. Total of 40 subs 5 minutes each,of Lum, R,G,B filters, and then 50 minutes of H alpha as well to bring out the surprisingly large number of H alpha regions you can see. Processing in Pixinsight, used especially modern processing techniques of Starnet 2, that allows “removing” foreground stars to enable processing the faint background, then adding the stars back in. (without this, nearly impossible to process properly).

Roger Ivester:  Observer from North Carolina

IC 342, is a faint galaxy in Camelopardalis, and can be very difficult for the visual observer, due in-part to the low surface brightness and large size, requiring a dark sky with excellent transparency.  

I made all observations with a 10-inch reflector from my moderately light-polluted suburban backyard.  On a 5.0 NELM night, I located and observed this galaxy rather easily.  A chain of six stars, with an orientation of NW-SE, lies a few minutes SW of the faint core. 

This galaxy is best observed with low to medium magnification.  I used 114x for the following pencil sketch. The 10-inch presented IC 342 as little more than a large faint glow without structure.  A faint and small core could be seen with averted vision, with the absence of visible detail being attributed to the lack of a dark site, which reduced the contrast significantly.  

On a night of lesser seeing and transparency, I was unable to see this galaxy with my 102mm refractor.

James Dire:  Observer from Illinois 

IC 342 is one of the most unique galaxies in the heavens due to its orientation, size and brightness. It’s a face-on spiral galaxy approximately 20 arc-minutes in diameter and glows at mag 9.67. Because of its size, brightness and orientation, it’s very hard to see visually. It spans only 1/3 the distance across as the face-on spiral M33 in the constellation Triangulum, which is 35 times brighter.  So M33 is easier to see in a telescope.  

IC 342 has about the same total luminosity as M100, a face-on spiral galaxy residing in Coma Berenices, however, since it spans three times the diameter as M100, but M100 is much easier to see visually. 

The only face-on spiral galaxy with the same angular size that comes to mind is M101 in Ursa Major.  However, M101 is 5 times brighter, so big light buckets reveal M101’s spiral arms with much greater ease. 

IC 342 lies in the northerly constellation Camelopardalis.  It is slightly southwest of the midpoint between two mag. 4.5 stars, Gamma Camelopardalis and BE Camelopardalis. The two stars are 5.75° apart

To see IC 342 in its splendor requires a long exposure with an astronomical camera. The galaxy is classified as a weakly barred and loosely wound spiral galaxy. 

The Hubble classification SABc. (S means spiral, AB means weekly barred, and c means loosely wound spiral arms). In barred spiral galaxies, the spiral arms usually originate at the ends of the bar. On IC 342, there appear to be two spiral arms originating from each end of the galactic bar. The arms tend to fan out as one traces them away from the bar. My image of IC 342 as following, was taken January 6, 2010 at the Wildwood Pines Observatory in Earl, NC. 

I used an SBIG ST-2000XCM CCD camera, operating at -20°C, attached to a 190mm (7.5-inch) f/5.3 Maksutov-Newtonian telescope. The exposure was 60 minutes.

Sue French:  Observer from New York

“Deep-Sky Wonders” P-15.

“….105mm scope at 28x, this pretty galaxy is a vaporous phantom spangled with faint stars.  It appears oval, its long dimension running north and south with a 12′.  From a dark-sky site with his 105mm refractor, noted observer Stephen  O’Meara has been able to trace out IC 342’s three main spiral arms.” 

The following pencil sketch was made using a 10-inch reflector at 88x.

Christian Luginbuhl and Brian Skiff: “Observing Handbook and Catalog of Deep-Sky Objects”

“….Large galaxy is relatively easy to see in small apertures at low powers. In 6 cm it is a faint blob north of a loose clustering of stars.”

“…25 cm a string of six stars runs SE-NW through where the object is seen in 6 cm.”

M39: Open Cluster In Cygnus – October 2022 Observer’s Challenge Report #165

Posted October 19, 2022 by rogerivester
Categories: Work File Only - Observer's Challenge Reports

Complete Report: Click on the following link:

October: A Special Month, Cooler Days, Frosty Nights, Colorful Leaves, Jackets Or Coats, Perfect To Observe Old Friends With A Telescope.

Posted October 14, 2022 by rogerivester
Categories: Roger's Articles

October 1965 at 12 years old:

Shortly after sunset, I would notice a small cluster of stars rising above the tree tops in the east.  It would take me a while, but I did learn that it was the “Pleiades” or M45.

My first deep-sky object…”celestial objects beyond the solar system” such as galaxies, nebulae, and star clusters. This began my interest in astronomy, which I continue still today.

Just a little information, concerning my very first deep-sky object and a car company. Most all reading this are aware of this fact, but some possibly may not be.

In Japan, this cluster is known as “Subaru” which is the namesake of the car company.  The background of the Subaru emblem is most always blue, as to represent the “very hot” blue stars of the cluster.   

October 1967 and 55 years ago:  

I gave my first astronomy presentation to my 8th grade science class, using my brother’s 60mm equatorial refractor.  

The subject and title was:  “How To Use An Astronomical Telescope.” I was really a hit with my classmates, even if it only lasted for the remainder of the day. 

Such pleasant memories from October 1965 and October 1967.