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 the 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.  The facility has been featured in Astronomy Magazine, the Las Vegas Review Journal and the LA Times.   

Roger and Debbie Ivester

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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.   

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

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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:

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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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

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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.   

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Laurens, South Carolina

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Debbie and myself all ready for the main event!

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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.   

 
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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 

 
Hale-Bopp