Roger Ivester: Amateur Astronomer

Posted December 15, 2015 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

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

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My Story:

I first became interested in astronomy in the mid-60’s at the age of twelve. One of my brothers, Jim had purchased a 60 mm refractor, and I soon became really interested in this telescope. It had an equatorial mount, several pretty decent eyepieces, a Barlow lens, and a host of other accessories. I would take this scope into a weedy field very close to my house, where I hoped to view some of those fabulous spiral galaxies and nebulae and star clusters I’d seen in my science books.  However, this was not yet to be, as I had quite a bit of learning to do, which continues to this day.     

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

My progression was very slow at first, and found amateur astronomy to be difficult. I knew nothing about star hopping, polar alignment, or setting circles, however, I persevered.  It was, however, just fun being outside with my telescope in total solitude. When looking into the eyepiece, the colors of the stars became obvious. I perceived some as being the color of rust, white, blue, bluish-white, or orange. Sometimes while looking at those distant suns, I’d wonder if there was life beyond the Earth.

I can still remember the frogs in the spring and summer, and occasionally a solitary great horned owl in the distance, on those cold wintry nights. Summer in western North Carolina had a sound all its own, with a million insects singing in perfect harmony. Gazing at a dark sky, full of stars and listening to the sounds of nature was mesmerizing.  

During those early years, I didn’t know of another kid having an interest in telescopes and astronomy.  At least twenty years would pass before I would meet that other person with a similar interest.  It would be 1985, or about the time of Halley’s Comet, that a local astronomy club was formed and I became a member.   

I gave my first amateur astronomy presentation to my eighth grade science class in October 1967.  The title of my presentation was “How To Use An Astronomical Telescope.”  I used my brothers 60 mm Sears (Jason) refractor, and told the class all about it, and most importantly, how to use it.  I was a big hit, even if it only lasted for the rest of the day.  

It wasn’t until the mid-70’s that I acquired my very own telescope, a 4 1/4-inch Edmund Scientific reflector.  I’ll never forget one special night with this scope.  I was attempting to locate M81 and M82, two of the most beautiful galaxies in the heavens.  By this time, the fabulous skies of my early years were gone.  I’d moved to an area packed with houses and street lights, and the light pollution was severe in my back yard.

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

One night, while observing, time was running out.  It was already after 11:00 PM, and I needed to get up early the next morning.  I used my hands in an attempt to block the ambient light from entering my eyepiece, and then it happended:  A small, faint object entered my telescope view, and then another.  I had finally found M81 and M82.  What a beautiful sight!  I savored the view for the longest time and to this day, I can still feel that excitement.  In my mind, I became a real amateur astronomer that night.

Getting Serious:

There would be many other successes and failures in the years to follow, however it wasn’t until 1992 that I became a serious observer.  A new 10-inch, equatorially mounted reflector allowed me to see objects that were impossible with my smaller scopes.  During this period, I also became good friends with an astronomy and physics professor at a local university.  We began observing together and he taught me a lot, both about observing and astronomy in general.

I soon realized that just going outside and observing was not enough.  I needed a purpose, something more lasting.  I began taking copious notes on all objects observed, noting the minutest of details, or at least to the best of my abilities. This also proved to be somewhat lacking, so I added to those notes by sketching.  I soon realized that drawing deep-sky objects challenged me to really see what I was trying to observe.

Over the past years, I have observed and cataloged many deep-sky objects, accumulating over a thousand pencil sketches. This has required many hours at the eyepiece, and a countless number of hours working on notes, organization of the notes, sketches and astronomy articles.  My first recorded notes were fairly brief, and my sketches were not as detailed as I would have liked.  Even today, I’m still working to improve both my notes and sketching, never being totally satisfied  with the results.  I suppose that sketchers and astrophotographers are very much alike in this regard…always striving for something better.   

Supplemental:  

Co-founder of the Las Vegas Astronomical Society Observer’s Challenge report.   An international deep-sky observing report….allowing 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 is an international report and will begin its tenth year in is an international report in 2018, with participants and readers from all over the country and beyond.  

Observer’s Challenge mission statement:  “Sharing observations and bringing amateur astronomers together” 

I was glad 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 the LA Times.   

Astronomy blogger for the past eight years.   

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 130,000 lifetime miles.     

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University Optics Close Doors After More than 55+ Years

Posted December 3, 2017 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

I’m a bit late in finding out, but University Optics closed its doors in ~June 2017.  I am saddened to hear this. 

After 25 years, I still use my UO Konigs 12 mm, 16 mm, 24 mm in 1.25″ format, and a 32 mm 2-inch, and a 20 mm UO Erfle.  I also have a University Optics 2.8x Klee Barlow.  

About 15 years ago I called the owner, Mr. Seyfried.  My 12 mm Konig had a streak of light crossing the FOV when observing brighter stars.  Seyfried told me to send it back (after more than 10 years) and he would replace the lens.  

I received the EP back in less than a couple weeks, and it performs perfectly to this day.  Now this is a warranty and service for sure!  I was willing to pay, but Mr. Seyfried would have no part of this.  

An ad from the 70’s in S&T:  A complete UO 6-inch reflector OTA kit for sale.  You had to assemble all parts, black the inside, and paint the outside.  The cost was $164, and did I ever want this kit telescope!  

It’s for sure sad to see a company that supplied at one time, mirror making kits, mirror cells and other items which other vendors did not sell….out of business after 55+ years.  I like things to stay the same  😦 

Roger Ivester

NGC 772 – Galaxy In Aries – November 2017 Observer’s Challenge Report #105

Posted December 1, 2017 by rogerivester
Categories: Observer's Challenge Reports

LVAS Observer’s Challenge:  Click on the following link. 

NOVEMBER 2017 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-0772

NGC 772, faint mag. 12 galaxy in Aries 

10-inch reflector at 104x, NGC 772 is faint, difficult with low surface brightness, elongated, but subtle, oriented NW-SE.  The middle is a bit brighter with little concentration.  A pin-point stellar nucleus was noted, however intermittently, and required averted version.  Very soft mostly even halo with the edges fading gradually outwards.  My observing location was from my my 5.0 NELM backyard.  

The last time I observed this galaxy was November 1993, from the same location and telescope.  My notes from that session were almost verbatim to my most recent observation.  A true dark site is necessary to see faint details and structure, especially when using a 10-inch telescope.    Roger Ivester

Pencil sketch 10-inch reflector with a 5.0 NELM

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Image and notes by James Dire from Hawaii using a 10-inch Newtonian Reflector

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NGC 772
James Dire
LVAS Observer’s Challenge
November 2017

NGC 772 is a fine spiral galaxy in the constellation Aries. The galaxy resides 82 arcminutes east-southeast of the great 4th magnitude binary star Mesarthim, a.k.a. Gamma Arietis. NGC772 is approximately 10th magnitude and is 7 x 4 arcminutes in size.

NGC 772 is nearly face on, but asymmetrical in shape. Its distorted appearance is due to gravitational interactions with NGC 770, a 14th magnitude elliptical galaxy. Distance measurements for the pair range from 87 to 130 million light years. The spiral galaxy is thought to be twice the diameter of the Milky Way Galaxy. Some astronomers classified NGC 772 as a barred spiral while other claim it has no central bar.

I viewed NGC 772 using 190mm, f/5.3 Maksutov Newtonian at 111x. The bight core of the galaxy stood out. With averted vision, I could make out the asymmetrical shape of the spiral arms.

My image of NGC 772 was taken with a 10-inch f/6.9 Newtonian using an SBIG ST-2000XCM CCD camera. The exposure was three hours. The two brightest stars in the image, on the left side near the bottom, are magnitude 11. The faintest stars in the image are magnitude 19.

The second image has arrows showing several of the fainter galaxies around NGC 772. I have labeled them with their best catalog numbers and magnitudes. The faintest of these galaxies is magnitude 18.1.  NGC 770 is the dwarf elliptical galaxy just to the south of NGC 770.

NGC 770 is thought to be a satellite galaxy of NGC 772, but it may have recently (cosmologically speaking) been captured and could be on a collision course with the larger galaxy. NGC 772 is unique in that its outer stars rotate around its core in the opposite direction the core rotates. This just adds to the mystery of how these two galaxies came to be associated with each other.  James Dire

Image by Mario Motta using a 32-inch Telescope from Massachusetts

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Bob’s Knobs – Collimation Thumbscrews For Newtonian and Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescopes

Posted November 27, 2017 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

It was almost forty years ago when I sold my 6-inch Criterion RV-6.  Life became really busy and just didn’t have time to observe for several years.

Earlier this year, I decided to replace the RV-6, with another 6-inch reflector.   I really didn’t need another telescope, but you know how that can be.

The telescope came with a bag of Bob’s Knobs thumbscrews, but I had not installed, until this weekend.  It was very easy….replacing one screw at a time and collimating after each replacement.

The 6-inch reflector: 

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

Roger Ivester

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M15 Globular Cluster – Pegasus October 2017 – Observer’s Challenge Report

Posted November 14, 2017 by rogerivester
Categories: Observer's Challenge Reports

October 2017 Observer’s Challenge:  Click on the following link for full report. 

OCTOBER 2017 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – M-015 2  

Easy to see in 7 x 50 finder.  10-inch reflector at 267x, M15 appears mostly round with a bright intense middle, and an excellent resolve of stars in the outer regions.  When using averted vision, an intermittent sprinkling of faint pin-point stars in the central region.  An impression of dark lanes extending outward from the core and a star chain around the SSW edge.  Bright field star to the north.

3.5-inch Maksutov, M15 appears circular with a very bright and intense center.  There is no resolution of stars with this aperture.  RI 

Pencil sketch 10-inch reflector at 267x 

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Image of M15 by James Dire from Hawaii using an 8-inch f/8 RC telescope  

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M15 photo by Mario Motta of Massachusetts using a 32-inch telescope. 

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Does Anybody Remember Science Hobbies on Central Avenue in Charlotte?

Posted November 7, 2017 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

I will always remember purchasing my first telescope from Science Hobbies in Charlotte, North Carolina during the mid-70’s.  It was an Edmund Scientific 4 1/4-inch f/10 reflector. Science Hobbies sold mostly Edmund products, and always had a big 8-inch Edmund f/6 reflector sitting in the window.  The 8-inch would have been my dream scope at the time, but the cost was well over $600.  The year was 1976….and this was far beyond my budget.

I was looking at both the Edmund 4 1/4 and the larger 6-inch Super Space Conqueror.  I really wanted the 6-inch with a much heavier equatorial mount, but had to settle for the smaller scope, due to the cost. 

Throughout the years, I always enjoyed going to Science Hobbies.  It was fun to see the latest from Edmund, which included telescopes, eyepieces, and other fun science products.  I bought a lot of stuff over the years from that little store.

I also purchased The Finest Deep-Sky Objects by Mullaney and McCall, a Tirion Atlas.  One item I really like and use is an eyepiece shelf which mounts on the pedestal and will hold six eyepieces.  I also purchased all of those old, but fabulous astronomy books written for Edmund by Sam Brown and Terence Dickinson.  I still use them on occasion.  

A sad day:

It was a Saturday, back in the late 90’s, and I said to my wife Debbie “hey lets ride down to Science Hobbies”.  Debbie always enjoyed going to a shopping mall after my spending a couple of hours looking at telescopes, etc.  We drove into the parking lot, something did not seem right, there was no telescope sitting in the window.  The rusty sign that had been hanging over the front door for many years was missing.  I got out of the car and pressed my nose on the front door.  Oh no…..the store was empty!  The store had closed!  

The last time I had been there, one of the clerks told me that business had been slow.  This concerned me a bit…..I was the only person in the store.

I really miss that place, spending time and looking at astronomy equipment “live” and not on the pages of a catalog.  Retail stores are having a difficult time these days, regardless of what they sell.  It’s really hard to compete with the internet, and mail order.  

If you have problems via mail order it can be quite difficult having to box up a defective product.  I had to return two Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes quite a few years ago.  One would not focus, and the other had a serious problem with the drive.  It would have been great if I could have checked them out in a store before taking them home.    

The good thing….all major astronomy equipment vendors online have excellent return policies, should there be a problem, or if the product does not meet your expectations.   

All of my astronomy purchases are now online, since the closing of Science Hobbies, which has now been almost twenty-five years.   However, I still miss those Saturday afternoons, looking at astronomy equipment.  

Roger Ivester

The “Finest Deep-Sky Objects” by Mullaney and McCall Still Available From Sky & Telescope

Posted November 3, 2017 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

Just saw this on the Sky & Telescope “Shop at Sky”.

S&T has the classic book The Finest Deep-Sky Objects by James Mullaney and Wallace McCall for only $0.49. This is a great little paperback (good quality slick paper) and one of my first reference books. I got mine many years ago at Science Hobbies in Charlotte, where I also purchased my first real telescope, a 4.25-inch Edmund f/10 reflector.

This book, along with James Mullaney, Tom Lorenzin, and Tom English inspired my interest in both red stars and doubles, which I enjoy still to this day….

https://www.shopatsky.com/finest-deep-sky-obj

I also had to include a photo of my first serious telescope (4.25-inch Edmund Palomar Jr. circa 1977) which was a step up from my brothers 60 mm Sears (Jason) refractor. My son, Chadwick pictured (now in his 40’s…wow! time flies) beside my first and second telescopes. The Edmund is on the right, and my RV-6 Criterion (circa 1979) on the left.

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NGC 6905 – Planetary Nebula – Delphinus – Observer’s Challenge Report – September 2017

Posted October 11, 2017 by rogerivester
Categories: Observer's Challenge Reports

SEPTEMBER 2017 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-6905

Pencil sketch using a blank 5 x 8 note card with the colors inverted. 

Rogers NGC-6905

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