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 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 eyepieces, a Barlow lens, and a host of other accessories. I would take this small telescope into a weedy field beside  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 even to this day.     

I grew up in the foothills of North Carolina, and my house was located near the end of a dirt road with only two others.  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. 

My progression was slow, and I found amateur astronomy to be difficult.  However, it was 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 rust, white, blue, bluish-white, or orange. And 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.  And finding that other person with an interest in astronomy would finally happen in 1985.  A local astronomy club was formed and I became a member with my youngest son, Brad.  

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 remainder 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 Newtonian reflector, a Palomar Jr. which was not my first choice, but the best my budget would allow at this time in my life. Using an inflation calculator, the cost of the Edmund reflector was $159.50 in 1976, which would be $744.45 in 2019.  

I’ll never forget one special night using that humble Edmund scope, while attempting to locate M81 and M82, two of the most beautiful galaxies in the heavens. And by this time, the fabulous skies of my early years were gone. I’d moved to an area packed with houses and street lights.  

Attempting to find even the brightest deep-sky objects under these conditions proved to be difficult. I had tried many times to locate M81 and M82, but without success.  

One night while observing, I was using my hands in an attempt to block the ambient light from entering my eyepiece, and then it happened:  A small and faint fuzzy object entered my telescope view, and then with a slight nudge, another…..finally M81 and M82.  What a beautiful sight!  I savored the view for the longest time and to this day and I can still feel that excitement.  I went to bed smiling that night, and in my mind, I was now a real amateur astronomer!    

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 faint deep-sky objects that were impossible with my previous smaller telescopes. 

After a period of time with my new 10-inch reflector, 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 pencil 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 more than 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, which allows 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 will begin its eleventh year in 2019.  

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

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, the Las Vegas Review Journal and other publications.

Astronomy blogger since 2010. 

Roger and Debbie Ivester 



Just had to include a photo of my other hobby….cycling.  I’ve been fortunate to have logged more than 140,000 lifetime miles, as of 2018.      



M11 – Open Cluster in Scutum – Observer’s Challenge Object – August 2019

Posted August 22, 2019 by rogerivester
Categories: Work File Only - Observer's Challenge Reports

Pencil sketch, colors inverted via computer using a 6-inch f/6 Newtonian reflector telescope @ 83x.

SkyShed POD Personal Observatory: By Guest Host, James Dire

Posted August 19, 2019 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

Hi All,

Had a productive day at the observatory yesterday. Got the Sky Shed POD anchored to the concrete and installed all of the equipment. After dark, did the polar alignment and a mount model.  All is ready to start imaging!

The anchor bolt in the photo goes 3 inches into the concrete.  The telescope is an 8-inch Ritchey-Chretien. I’m using an 0.8x Focal Reducer/Field Flattner with the CCD camera which yields an f/6.4 system with a 1300mm focal length.

The camera is an SBIG ST-2000XCM. Controlling everything with The SkyX Pro and imaging with MaximDL.

I’ll probably swap cameras occasional with an SBOIG STF-8300c and swap telescopes with my 5.2-inch f/7 refractor.




Neglected Deep-Sky Objects: By Guest Host James Mullaney

Posted August 16, 2019 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

The following link is to one of my older S&T articles, FYI.  It’s the original Word Document as submitted to the magazine.  Enjoy!  Jim Mullaney 

S&T Neglected Deep-Sky Wonders

Starlink: (Satellite Constellations) Digital Imaging vs Sketching By Guest Host, James Mullaney

Posted August 11, 2019 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

With the overwhelming popularity of astro-imaging among the amateur astronomy community today, those practicing it may soon be in for quite a shock.  With 12,000 Starlink (plus others) satellites in the works, images will surely be spoiled no matter how short the exposure.  

And in the case of wide-field long exposures, there could be dozens of satellite trails of varying magnitudes crossing the image.  

Ironically, visual observing – and good old-fashioned sketching as long promoted by ATMoB member Roger Ivester in his articles, letters, and his “Observer’s Challenge” posts – will be immune to this growing menace.  (Among other notable club members who actively sketch deep-sky objects are Sky & Telescope’s Sue French and Astronomy magazine’s Glenn Chaple.)

Jim Mullaney


Supplemental:  The above article by James Mullaney is something for thought, contemplation and concern for sure.  However,  I’d like to add or give credit to some other visual observer’s who contribute sketches to the Observer’s Challenge report on a regular basis.     

Jaakko Saloranta, Fred Rayworth, Craig Sandler, Mike McCabe, Kenneth Drake, Francisco Silva and also expert astro-photographer, James Dire has been enjoying a bit of sketching as of late.   Roger 


Stellafane 2019 by Guest Host: Mario Motta

Posted August 5, 2019 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

Entering Stellafane:  I always feel like I am going home. 

I have been attending Stellafane since 1967. This was my 46th (I missed 5 years due to medical school and internship, and 1999 when I went to an eclipse in Hungary), so…I have been attending for a 52 year span. 

My Children have been gong with me since birth, and still attend nearly every year, and this year my 4 year old granddaughter joined as well!, In fact also had a niece and her three kids, and “extended family event”.

There are many star parties these days across the country, all done very nicely….but there is one and only one Stellafane, whose focus remains telescope making, and which has a rich history. 

Stellafane was founded in 1926 by Russell Porter with the Springfield Telescope Makers and with help from the Boston ATMoB. 

Its purpose was to teach how to make telescopes for the common man.  And prior to that, if an American wanted a telescope, it had to be shipped from Europe at a huge expense. By teaching all how to make them, costs became less of a issue. 

Scientific American took notice and published a string of articles about this back then, launching American Amateur Astronomy (and to some extent professional astronomy!) With this success, Russell Porter was noticed, and hired to work on the famed 200-inch Mount Palomar Telescope in California. 

Stellafane is a registered historical landmark.

I learned how to make telescopes from this group, and was encouraged to excel at every turn, build them bigger and better. We still give out awards for homemade telescopes to this day.  (I am in fact one of the mechanical judges, as well as the camp physician, which is my way of giving back)

I plan on attending for the rest of my life, and will never willingly miss a year.  This year, there was over a thousand attendees, and 35 telescope entries for judging.


1. Stellafane: Entry

2. Next generation being enticed, my Josephine (note her t-shirt says: “Forget princess, I want to be a rocket scientist”

3. Pink Clubhouse, historical registered landmark “The heavens declare the glory of God” on the roof trim.

4. Inside the Pink, oozes with history:  Images from Mt Palomar construction, images from Mt Wilson, and much more…)

5. The porter Turret telescope, was built by Russell Porter for cold Vermont winters.  The mirror sits on the boom and the focus is Inside the building

6. Bert Willard inside the porter scope (In 1979 I bought my first large mirror blank at Stellafane from him, a 16-inch blank, spent 4 years as a resident grinding and building a portable 16-inch scope. I had built an 8-inch as a teenager, but this one cemented my love of astronomy

7. Flanders Paviliion:  Talks are held here. 

8. McGreggor Observatory with roll-off roof. 

9. Shupman Telescope: This is the largest Shupman in the world…a 13-inch marvel.  Nothing on this planet, I have ever viewed through equals this scope. It was designed and built by Scott Milligan, the same lens designer who designed my 32-inch telescope. You need to see Jupiter Mars and Saturn through this one. Voyager like viewing!

10 Simoni Observatory: Newest at Stellafane, a solar heliostat, you sit in the building and observe in H-alpha.

11. Many scopes observing field.

12. McGreggor, the field, and the relatively new dome for handicapped individuals. 


next generation- (josephine and me)


inside the Pink

the porter


bert willard in the porter

Flanders Pavillion



simoni observatory

observing field

scopes and mcgregor.jpg

Mario Motta 

Stellafane 2019 by Guest Host: Glenn Chaple

Posted August 5, 2019 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

I had a nice time at Stellafane this year. Made it a brief day trip, as I brought my brother Bob with me and he’s not into astronomy like me. His wife died a month ago and I thought a Stellafane visit would get his mind off things for awhile.

We arrived at Breezy Hill around 11am and immediately went to the swap table. It was pretty well cleared out by this time and I wasn’t really in the mood for astro-goodies anyway. Amazingly, I found a guy who, besides astro gear, was selling brand-new fishing rods for just $10 each. Bob had broken his rod when we went fishing last weekend, so I bought him one as an early birthday present. That alone made the trip worthwhile!

Most of the day, I showed him around the Stellafane grounds and introduced him to friends I meet each time I go there. Among them was Sue French and her husband Al. I congratulated her on her success in taking over the “Deep Sky Wonders” column in Sky and Telescope.

The weather was surprisingly nice, despite predictions of afternoon showers. As darkness approached, I set up my 4.5-inch Orion Dob in the observing field next to ATMoB member Steve Clougherty’s 18-inch scope.

Roger Ivester:  You’ll be proud of me.  I took your advice about observing future Observer’s Challenge objects and viewed the July, 2021, target NGC 6572 – a PN in Ophiuchus. I checked it out first in Steve’s scope, then with the 4.5-inch, making a sketch using that scope. There was enough haze to add some murk to the normally clear and dark Stellafane skies, so Steve and I showed Bob a few showpieces – Jupiter and Saturn, some bright doubles (beta Sco, Mizar, and Albireo through my scope), and M3 through the 18-inch before Bob and I left Breezy Hill at 10:30pm.

Bob didn’t become an addicted backyard astronomer after his Stellafane trip, but he did enjoy himself. As he told my friends there, he came because he wanted to see what this place I constantly talk about is like,​ and he was impressed by the scenery and the camaraderie.

James Mullaney:  To answer your questions:

Camping areas are scattered all around Stellafane East. Stellafane West is the heart of the convention and is comprised of the pink clubhouse and Porter Turrett Telescope and is the site of the telescope-making competition. Stellafane East was added after the 1980s when the farmer who let us use a field near the clubhouse as a camping area died, and his sons wanted to use the area to build condos. They were thwarted when the Springfield Telescope Makers had the Stellafane site designated as a national historical site. In spite, the farmer’s family turned the field into a Christmas tree farm, but the Springfield Club was able to purchase nearby acres, and -voila!- Stellafane East. There isn’t a banquet pre se. A local vendor sets up a large tent and seating area, and lobster and chicken dinners are served (ordered in advance when registering for Stellafane). Hot dogs, hamburgers, and Italian sausage grinders are also offered. In its heyday, about 2000 people would attend the Stellafane Convention. I didn’t ask for a count, but those of us there estimated perhaps as much as a thousand.

I’ve attached two pictures which I took at Stellafane. The first is the view you get when you leave the wooded trail leading up to the clubhouse and reach the clearing at the top of Breezy hill.

Each year I come to Stellafane, I take a shot of this view, then take individual shots of the telescopes entered in the competition (didn’t “shoot” the scopes this year).

In the pic is the pink clubhouse and the Porter Turret Telescope. Back in 1996, I notified the Springfield Telescope Makers that September was the 50th anniversary of Walter Scott Houston’s first “Deep Sky Wonders” column in Sky and Telescope. Sadly, the magazine didn’t mention the fact. Scotty was a regular at Stellafane and, in appreciation, they invited me to join them on Breezy Hill on a clear September evening. What a difference from the clamoring crowds! It was just me and a few dozen club members. We used the Turret Telescope to view the objects Scotty had featured in that September, 1946, column. M11, M27, and M57. The real thrill came when we turned to the moon for a close-up view of Clavius Crater. A large crater invading its wall was named after Porter. Imagine looking at Porter Crater through a telescope designed (and possibly worked on) by the man it was named for!

The second photo shows me and Bob standing in front of the pink clubhouse. The guy in the red T-shirt and white cap to my right is Phil Harrington who has written several backyard astronomy guides and is the binocular columnist for Astronomy. I told him and the guys sitting next to him (friends who run the Astronomer’s Conjunction Convention in Northfield, MA) that they didn’t need to move. I’d just Photoshop them out of the picture!

A final observation. I walked the entire half mile up and down the wooded path to the clubhouse with no difficulty at all – a good sign that my heart has improved over its condition during the previous two  years.

Clear Skies,

Glenn Chaple

NGC 5377 – Galaxy – Canes Venatici – June 2019 Observer’s Challenge Object

Posted July 3, 2019 by rogerivester
Categories: Work File Only - Observer's Challenge Reports

Observer’s Challenge Report:


Pencil sketch:  10-inch reflector @ 160x 

Image by Mario Motta – 32-inch reflector