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.


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.   


Co-founder of the Las Vegas Astronomical Society Observer’s Challenge report.   An international deep-sky observing report….open to any serious amateur to share observations, sketches, images, and notes on a monthly basis.  In June 2017, the challenge will celebrate it’s 100th consecutive monthly report, with  followers all over the country and in many foreign countries.   

Catalyst for the Mount Potosi Observing Complex in Southern Nevada, facilitating a $50,000 telescope donation by Dr. James Hermann, M.D. from North Carolina.    Roger Ivester


Roger and Debbie Ivester


Debbie pictured with a 6-inch f/6 reflector.  In the days of yesteryear, the 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 around portable telescope, especially with an f/6 focal ratio.   


Just had to include a photo of my other hobby….cycling.  I’ve been fortunate to be able to log 130,000 lifetime miles, to-date.    



M24 Star Cloud, Open Cluster NGC 6603, Dark Nebula Barnard 92 and 93

Posted August 31, 2017 by rogerivester
Categories: Observer's Challenge Reports

Observer’s Challenge Report:  AUGUST 2017 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – M-024

Image of the M24 complex by James Dire from Hawaii



August 2017 Observer’s Challenge, Globular Cluster, M24 and the Many Other Wonders and Treasures Hidden in the Depths of the Sagittarius Milky Way by Sue French

On moonless nights away from the glow of outdoor lighting, the misty fall of the Milky Way tumbles down to the horizon through Sagittarius. Its gossamer glow is fashioned from remote swarms of innumerable stars, and the silvery splendor of their intermingled light shows us the plane of the disk-shaped, spiral galaxy we live in. The Sagittarius Milky Way is interlaced with dark rifts. For the most part, the stars that lie along this section of the Milky Way, as well as the dark clouds that decorate it, lie within the Sagittarius Arm of our galaxy. This is the next spiral arm inward from ours, and it blocks the view beyond. Within the dark rift, however, a gap allows us to peer deeper into the galaxy. The stars that shine through this hole make up Messier 24, the Small Sagittarius Star Cloud.

Messier 24 is sometimes called Delle Caustiche, a name attributed to the 19th-century, Italian astronomer Angelo Secchi. However, Secchi made it clear in his 1877 book Le Stelle that he was only describing a small part of M24. He writes of a little cloud, less than half the Moon’s apparent diameter, made up of a multitude of separate groups of tiny stars. Two of these groups are charted as seen through a 9.6-inch telescope. The first is labeled “Gruppo delle Caustiche” (Group of Caustics), because its diminutive stars are arrayed in arcs that resemble caustic curves. Secchi calls the second group, close south of the first, a circular collection of beautiful starlets arranged in several rays diverging from its brightest star. Its chart is labeled “Gruppo a raggera” (Sunburst Group). He refers to yet another section, next to the Sunburst, as a magnificent system of crossed arcs, the middle strewn with faint stars too numerous to count.

Indeed, one can’t help but point a telescope anywhere within the 2° × 1° oblong of Messier 24 without being struck by the richness and variety of the star fields. Through my 130-mm refractor with a wide-angle eyepiece at 23×, M24 spans most of the field of view. Its best-known features are the dark nebulae Barnard 92 and Barnard 93, seen in projection against the cloud like dusky eyes in a fuzzy face. B92 is a nearly north-south ink spot covering about 13½′ × 8′. B93 is an 8′ ×3′ band with a less pronounced extension bending southward from its southwestern end. This eye seems to be winking. Collinder 469 is a little knot of stars just a few arcminutes off the extension’s end. A very long and distinctive line of faint stars sweeps east-northeast to west-southwest across M24. The star chain skims north of B92 and B93, and it has a northward bump between them.

The open cluster NGC 6603 is a nicely obvious patch of haze flecked with a few superimposed stars. It’s perched near a red-orange star, which is the middle star in the northern arm of a 20′ V of 7th- and 8th-magnitude stars. The middle star in the V’s southern arm is the double SHJ 264 (S,h 264). Its whitish components are well separated, with the 7.6-magnitude companion 17″ northeast of its 6.9-magnitude primary. The pair’s designation tells us that it’s the 264th entry in James South’s and John Herschel’s multiple star catalog of 1824.

Although I can’t fit all of M24 in the field of view at 63×, it’s amazing how much more obvious and intricate the dark nebulae are at this magnification. A fairly conspicuous thread runs east-northeast from B93, leading to a large area of patchy darkness that contains Barnard 307. Much dark nebulosity spreads west from B92, and a long, forked patch (Barnard 304) reaches southwest. Collinder 469 and NGC 6603 share a field of view. Cr 469 shows six stars that form a capital A pointing northeast, while pretty NGC 6603 is a granular patch of mist. At 117×, Cr 469 displays 11 stars in a group whose longest dimension is about 3¼′. A bit larger, but much more crowded, NGC 6603 is sprinkled with many faint to very faint stars over haze. It sports a prominent southeast-northwest band of stars that cuts across the cluster’s center.

You might think that M24 would be a terrible place to look for a petite planetary nebula, but I was surprised to find NGC 6567 reasonably easy to spot through my 130-mm scope. At 37× it appears bluish and minuscule, but most definitely not stellar. A magnification of 117× reveals a tiny blue-grey disk that’s fairly bright. A dim star sits just off the nebula’s eastern side. At 205× it seems to have a brighter center. Through my 10-inch reflector at 115×, NGC 6567 presents a strikingly blue-green disk that I judge to be about 9″ across.

NGC 6603 is wonderfully transformed by the 10-inch scope. At 213×, it’s a beautiful cluster of myriad diamond-dust stars, with little unresolved haze remaining.  Sue French 



David J. Eicher

The starcloud M24, also known as the Small Sagittarius Starcloud. It is a dense patch of Milky Way, detached from its surroundings by lanes of dark nebulae. The cloud shines at magnitude 4.5, and measures 120′ x 40′ across. Its entire area fits into a binocular field, making for a spectacular sight. Telescopes don’t show the whole cloud, but several telescopic objects lie within and around the piece of Milky Way Galaxy.

The open cluster NGC 6603, which appears as a condensation in the rich background of starcloud M24, measures 4′ across and contains 50 stars of 14th magnitude and fainter, giving it a total magnitude of 11.4. Telescopes operating at high power show this misty spot as being slightly nebulous, giving the impression of an unresolved globular. The object looks similar to NGC 2158 in Gemini, the little cluster sitting beside M35. Also within the cloud is the bright, tiny planetary nebula NGC 6567, which glows at magnitude 11.5 and measures 11″ x 7″ in diameter. It is rather difficult to locate among the richness of the stellar background, but medium powers reveal the nebula’s fuzziness. Seeing 6567’s 15th magnitude central star is a difficult task even for large telescope owners: it is easily overpowered by the nebulosity. Another object immersed in M24 is the dark nebula Barnard 92, which measures 15′ across and lies on the starcloud’s northwest edge. On good dark nights it is visible as an obvious “hole” in the glittery backdrop of stars.

David J. Eicher, The Universe from Your Backyard – A guide to Deep-Sky Objects from Astronomy Magazine


Roger Ivester

Messier 24 is a rich detached section of the Sagittarius Milky Way, best observed with binoculars. M24 is also known as the the little star cloud with a size of 2º x 1º which makes it a bit large for most telescopes, and is best observed with binoculars.

It was my plan this year to use a small 3-inch rich-field telescope with a 4º FOV to finally attempt that pencil sketch which I’ve wanted for the longest time. Unfortunately the weather in North Carolina has been rainy and cloudy for most of the year to-date. I’ve had very limited time outside this year, so that wide-field pencil sketch of M24 and all of the integrated sights and features will have to wait for another year.

In the northeast section of the star cloud lies a faint and small open cluster, NGC 6603. Using a 3.5-inch Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope at 52x, I found it difficult to locate, but this was due in-part to the light glow in my southern sky. I could not resolve this cluster, which appeared only as a faint mostly round glow.

Over the years, many amateurs have confused NGC 6603 as being M24.

Roger Ivester

2017 Total Solar Eclipse from Laurens, South Carolina – A Great and Memorable Day

Posted August 26, 2017 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

Image of the eclipse, the diamond ring, and Baily’s beads provided by Barre Spencer and Patrick White using a Canon Rebel with a 200 mm zoom lens.  Location of photo:  Columbia, SC 

(s) Diamond / Baily's Beads 9

A great group (pictured below) from various places met outside of an Italian restaurant to enjoy the solar eclipse together.  We were all surprised how few came to this quaint little town to observe this historic event.  The totality duration was ~ 2 mins  34 seconds, with perfect weather!  My wife, Debbie took the photo.  

During totality the sky darkened to a surprising level, but not as dark as a clear full moon night.  Venus appeared very bright in the western sky and Jupiter in the southeast.  I could not see any stars….naked eye.  

Both Debbie and I were amazed at the sudden flash of the diamond ring, as well as all of the others standing with us.  

The temperature drop was very significant.  A weather bureau report from Newberry, SC, not many miles away and also in the line of totality, had a temperature drop of 11º F.  We can only assume that this temperature drop would have been similar in Laurens.  When the sun began to re-emerge, we noticed a shimmering of light waves on the pavement in front of us, known as shadow bands.   


Laurens, South Carolina


Debbie and myself all ready for the main event!





Remembering Comet Hale-Bopp – March 1997 – Charcoal Sketch and Photograph

Posted August 14, 2017 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

A pleasant memory and a fast 20 years.  

Comet Hale-Bopp
March 1997
10-Inch Reflector
Magnification: 160x
FOV: 0.38º

White charcoal pencil sketch on black card stock.  The anti-tail, gas and dust tails are clearly visible.   


Image by Mario Motta of Massachusetts.  

Nikon camera at F2, 50mm lens if I recall….piggybacked on my telescope just before dawn, with FILM  kodachrome. (what is that stuff again?)

I scanned it to digitize a few years back.  Mario Motta 


Globular Cluster Messier 14 – July 2017 Observer’s Challenge Report

Posted August 8, 2017 by rogerivester
Categories: Observer's Challenge Reports


In 10-inch reflector, M14 is a large cluster, mostly round, but with a slight elongation, oriented northeast-southwest.

At 160x very few stars can be resolved, but only with averted vision. The surface brightness is overall fairly low with a mostly even texture, but with a subtle brightening in the central region. The edges fade very gradually outwards.

M14 at magnitude 7.6 is quite a bit fainter than globulars M10 and M12, also located in Ophiuchus.

In 3.5-inch Maksutov-Cassegrain the cluster is mostly round with a faint brighter concentrated middle. No resolve of stars.

Roger Ivester

Pencil Sketch: 


Inverted colors via computer:

Rogers M-014 Inverted


August 2017 Total Eclipse Information and Tips

Posted August 7, 2017 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

NGC 6015 – Galaxy in Draco – Observer’s Challenge Report – June 2017 #100

Posted June 9, 2017 by rogerivester
Categories: Observer's Challenge Reports

Observer’s Challenge complete report:


Our 100th monthly anniversary edition.  

NGC 6015
Galaxy in Draco 
Telescope: 10-inch Reflector 
Magnification: 104x 
NELM:  4.5-4.8 
Conditions: 59º with high humidity and a 16% moon
 Low surface brightness, large, broad oval with a subtle brightening in the central region.  An 11 mag. star lies 2 arc minutes to the west of the galaxy.  A 14 mag. star is  visible in the extreme SW halo when using averted vision.  A pair of 13 mag. stars are visible with direct vision, located just off the SW tip of the galaxy.  
Roger Ivester          


NGC 6015:  The following image provided by James Dire of Hawaii using a 10-inch reflector:


The following image by Mario Motta from Massachusetts using a 32-inch reflector:


Observer’s Challenge: Galaxy M98 in Virgo – May 2017 – Report #99

Posted May 24, 2017 by rogerivester
Categories: Observer's Challenge Reports


Image of galaxy M98:  32-inch reflector by Mario Motta from Massachusetts.   



“M98 (NGC 4192) is an elongated nearly edge-on type Sb spiral, measuring 8.2′ x 2.0′ and shining at magnitude 11.0.  This galaxy’s surface brightness is rather low, making it a tricky object at high power.  Backyard telescopes show this galaxy as a thin streak of greenish light, slightly curved, showing a faint envelope of gas and a sharp nucleus.”   David J. Eicher – Wisconsin – Editor Astronomy Magazine 


“Although M98 has low surface brightness, it can be seen in a 60mm refractor under dark skies.  Through a 105mm scope at around 100x, the galaxy is about 6′ x 2′, elongated N-NW to S-SW.  It contains a brighter, extended patchy core and an off-center, nearly stellar nucleus.”  Sue French –  New York – Deep-Sky Wonders


M98 is one of the fainter of the Messier objects and can be especially difficult when observed with a telescope smaller than 4-inches. The surface brightness is very low, and regardless of telescope size, a dark sky is needed to see and fully appreciate the many faint, but fine details this galaxy has to offer.

In a 10-inch reflector, M98 appears fairly bright, elongated, a bright nucleus, with unevenness in the halo, with some mottling noted in the central region. Two brighter sections can be seen in both the NW and SE arms.  The nucleus is off-set toward the SE.  

With a 102 mm refractor, and observing from my moderately light polluted backyard this galaxy appears very faint, elongated and weak without any center brightness. In a 6-inch reflector, the galaxy is slightly enlarged and overall a bit brighter when compared to the refractor.  Roger Ivester – Observer from North Carolina 

 Pencil sketch:


Inverted sketch: 

Rogers M-098 Inverted



By Dr. James Dire –  Observer from Hawaii
M98 is a magnitude 10.1 barred spiral galaxy in the constellation Coma Berenices. The galaxy is located 6 degrees east of the star Denebola. The galaxy is one-half degree west of the 5th magnitude star 6 Comae Berenices. M98 measures 10 x 2.8 arc minutes in size.

M98 is a nearly edge-on galaxy, inclined 74° to our line of sight. The galaxy has tightly wound spiral arms with a chaotic disk and an active nucleus. Distance measurements range from 44 to 66 million light years. It is thought to be a member of the Virgo galaxy cluster. The galaxy may have interacted with M99 750 million years ago which may account for the distortions in its disk.

Pierre Mechain discovered M98 in 1781, confirmed later that year by Charles Messier. Messier added M98, M99 and M100 into his third catalog immediately before publishing this final edition of his famous list. M98 is one of the faintest objects in Messier’s Catalog.

M98 is one of the few galaxies with a blue shift, meaning it is approaching us. This motion may be temporary if M98 is orbiting the Virgo Cluster. It may be at a point in its orbit where it is approaching us. If it is gravitationally bound to the cluster, it will never reach us.

I viewed M98 in a 6-inch refractor. The galaxy definitely was elongated and nearly edge on. No dust lane was visible and the core appeared much brighter then the galaxy’s edges.

My image of M98 was taken with a 10-inch f/6.9 Newtonian with an SBIG ST-2000XCM CCD camera. The exposure was 200 minutes. I would have preferred a much longer exposure to bring out more detail on the edges of the galaxy and may gather more data on it in the future. The brightest star in the image, located near the bottom left edge, is magnitude 11.7. The four star just off the left edge of the galaxy are magnitudes 12.5, 15.2 16.5 and 18.

On the image, note the bright star-forming region on the bottom (south) edge of the disk. The spiral arm edge visible on the top (north) side of the galaxy has bright HII regions with bright star clusters. Even with this small telescope, I was able to capture the distortions on the north edge of the galaxy’s disk. It appears like the galaxy has two disks that are slightly misaligned with each other. This was either caused the interaction with M99 cited above, or two galaxies have merged to create the presently seen M98.  JD 




Messier 98 is the second faintest object in the entire Messier galaxy only preceded by M91 (only 0.1 magnitudes fainter). With a visual magnitude of 10.1 and a surface brightness of roughly 13.5 it can be a fairly difficult catch under light polluted skies.

Observing in a suburban location, I could barely make out M98 with a 4.5-inch telescope as an elongated galaxy with a brighter core. With a 10-inch dobsonian reflector and high magnification under a dark sky, I could make out some structure from the mottled disk.

I described the object as follows using magnifications between 60 and 343x:

“Elongated in NW-SE direction. Bright core with a nearly stellar nucleus in the middle. Two spiral arm stubs visible, southern one being slightly brighter. Some dark markings near on the NW side of the galaxy but too difficult to sketch properly. With a bit of a stretch the galaxy is 5′ x 2′ in size”.    Jaakko Saloranta – Observer from Finland 

M98 Pencil sketch using a 4.5-inch reflector:   JS 




M98 –  Date of Observation:  4/12/2015 

I first viewed this galaxy on April 2, 1978, using a 3-inch f/10 reflector at 30X. I wrote in my logbook “Very faint, but looms large with averted vision.” On both occasions, M98 was located with the help of an Astro Card.  Glenn Chaple – Observer from Massachusetts 

Pencil sketch with colors inverted.  GC 

Glenns M-098


I observed M98 in dark but hazy skies on Cape Cod with a 10-inch reflector at 87x.  It was easily found with a Telrad offset from 6 Com.  It appeared as an oval patch elongated with approximately 1:4 ratio.  The galaxy appeared uniform without internal details.

Joseph Rothchild –  Observer from Massachusetts


Time: 5/20/2017 10:30pm EDT; Location: ATMoB Clubhouse
Bortle Scale: 6; NELM: 5; Transparency: Good; Seeing: Average
Telescope: 10-inch f/5 Reflector 

I managed to locate M98 after several minutes of star hopping from Denebola in Leo. This is the first Deep Sky Object that I’ve attempted on my own in a non-goto telescope. It was quite a challenging learning experience. The galaxy did not jump out at me after initially finding the surrounding star pattern, so I doubted myself for a while until I finally spotted it.

I found that my 25mm eyepiece presented the best view at 51x, with a 1.38º FOV.   Using direct vision the core of M98 showed up as a faint glow. Viewing with averted vision, I was able to see a thin elliptical patch aligned with of a chain of three stars to its SE and two stars to its NW.

A bright magnitude 5 star, 6 Comae Berenices, lies 1/2º due east of the galaxy. Chris Elledge – Observer from Massachusetts 



Site: Cherry Springs State Park, Coudersport, PA
May 15, 2017
Seeing: Excellent
Transparency: Excellent

I observed M98 with a Celestron 8SE SCT, and a Meade zoom EP set to 21 mm, for a magnification of 97x.  

This is a delicate and wispy fried egg of a galaxy; at the time I noted, “reminds one of M108; more pronounced west; upward curve East.”

Craig Sandler – Observer from Lexington, Massachusetts 

M98 Galaxy in Coma Berenices 

May 1967 using a 6-inch reflector @ 59x was large, elongated, located 1/2º east of the 5th mag. star, 6 Coma.  

1991 – using a 3-inch reflector @ 39x:  Large, elongated and diffuse.

1992 – With poor transparency ~ 4.0 NELM using a 60 mm refractor @ 21x could not see.
1993 – Using 12 x 50 binoculars could not see, however, galaxies M99 and M100 could be glimpsed.  
Gus Johnson – Observer from A Delaware