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.

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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 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, even to this day.     

I grew up in the foothills of western North Carolina.  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, completely devoid of light pollution. The sky was velvety black with the Milky Way extending almost to the horizon. 

My progression was very slow at first, and 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. 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.  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 rest of the day.  

It wasn’t until the mid-70’s when I acquired my very own telescope, a 4 1/4-inch Edmund Scientific reflector, a Palomar Jr. which was not my first choice, but the best my budget would allow.  

I’ll never forget one special night using this telescope. 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 very severe in my back yard.

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, 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 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 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.   

Supplemental:  

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 the LA Times.   

Astronomy blogger since 2010.   

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 140,000 lifetime miles, as of 2018.      

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Very Dark Skies In The Northeastern Corner Of South Carolina, Only 50 Miles From The Atlantic

Posted August 14, 2018 by rogerivester
Categories: Roger's Articles

While visiting family in Mullins South Carolina, I discovered some fabulous dark-sky areas.  Only a few miles outside the city limits, there are country roads, agriculture fields, no houses or lights for miles and miles.  

I’m hoping this fall and winter to visit more, and bring a telescope….probably my 6-inch reflector.  This scope is portable enough to pack carefully in the car, including the equatorial mount without taking up too much space.  A 6-inch has plenty of light gathering capacity to observe some very challenging deep-sky objects, easy to handle, and again….fairly portable.  

A discovery this morning (Tuesday, August 14th 2018) while riding around with my grandson,who just got his learners permit only last month.     

While he was showing me his driving skills and I was sharing my knowledge of how to be a safe driver, we found something very interesting while checking out some very country roads:  Sand dunes, and a very sandy area…..at first resembling snow, all in the middle of a dense forest and surrounded by swamp land.  There were Cyprus trees growing out of the black murky water, Spanish moss hanging from the trees, and probably some large alligators in that dark water!  

This sandy area which at one time was covered by the ocean is located about fifty miles from Myrtle Beach.   

Roger 

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M51 and Companion Galaxy NGC 5195 – June 2018 Observer’s Challenge Report

Posted July 12, 2018 by rogerivester
Categories: Observer's Challenge Reports

JUNE 2018 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – M-051

Observing notes: 

Messier 51 is visible along with companion NGC-5195 in a 60mm (2.4-inch) refractor.  M51 was mostly round with a bright stellar nucleus and a very faint halo.  The small companion galaxy, NGC-5195, just to the north was very faint and small.  If sky conditions are poor, this galaxy pair can be extremely difficult to see using a telescope this small.

In a 10-inch reflector on an exceptional night at 190X, spiral structure was easily visible.  I could trace the prominent eastern arm almost in contact with companion galaxy, NGC-5195.  The nuclei of both NGC-5194 and NGC-5195 were both stellar, with the smaller galaxy, 5195, having a brighter, more intense nuclei.  M51 had a mag. 13.5 star a couple of minutes to the SW of the core, still within the halo, and a mag. 14 star, (requiring averted vision to see) just off to the east, but outside of the halo.

One of my most memorable views of NGC-5194 and NGC-5195 came during an early spring night in 1993, using a 14.5-inch reflector.  The connecting arm of M51 (NGC-5194) was incredible and it reached far out toward the companion galaxy to the north.  This view rivaled that of many photographs.

On the night of April 14, 1994, supernova 1994I was visible.  I estimated the mag. of the SN on that night at 13.8.  The following pencil sketch was made that night. 

 

Rogers M-051 New a Inverted
 

Recognizing Astronomy Writers

Posted June 28, 2018 by rogerivester
Categories: Roger's Articles

Re: James Dire; June 2018 Reflector Magazine; Deep-Sky Objects; Title: Messier 16; The Eagle Nebula 

Another excellent article by James Dire, who provides a great service to the amateur astronomy community by his willingness to write a truly comprehensive and interesting deep-sky report each and every quarter.  

Seldom do amateur astronomy writers receive a note of appreciation for their work, and that would include the late Evered Kreimer, who co-authored “The Messier Album” with John Mallas. This was/is a very important book for me and so many other amateurs.  

I used this book extensively many years ago when I was attempting to observe all of the Messier objects, for my Astronomical League certificate.  At thirteen years old, never could I have imagined that one day I would observe all of the Messier objects, much less well over a thousand other deep-sky objects.  

I’ve included an excerpt from an article by Justing Balderrama, concerning his interview with Kreimer, who passed away in October 2016.    

“He told me that in the 36 years The Messier Album has been out, he never received one letter, one phone call, nothing. I’m the very first.”  Justin Balderrama “The Young Astronomer”

Roger Ivester

Cline Observatory Double Star List – Compiled By Tom English – July 2018

Posted June 22, 2018 by rogerivester
Categories: Roger's Articles

Cline Observatory Double Star List – 25double-5triple

Tom English has put together an excellent list of twenty five doubles and five  multiple stars, which at first glance would seem to be compiled for only those new to this facet of amateur astronomy.  However, for those of us who have enjoyed double star observing for decades, we know there is no such thing as a beginners list.

Double star lists can be comprised of the most difficult pairs due to their close separations and sometimes with unequal magnitudes, or those with wide separations and beautiful contrasting colors.  It was the latter which coined the name: “The jewels of the night sky.”

This list contains some beautiful and interesting doubles, all of which can be observed with a very small telescope.  The famous double star, Epsilon Bootis is probably the most difficult double on the list, which has always required a 4-inch aperture for me.  Many observers have reported seeing the companion to Epsilon with a 3-inch, and from Webb….a 2-inch, or even smaller.   

Are you stressed, too tired to take out that big telescope, but would like to enjoy an hour or so of relaxation under the night sky?  So….why not a 60 mm refractor or a 3-inch reflector?  Oh yes….don’t worry about the bright moon or ambient lights as both have little effect on most double stars.     

At one time I thought anything less than a three or four hour observing session was not worth the effort to take a telescope outside.  I became so consumed with observing….there was no way I could miss one clear night.  My observing became more of a job, and I was always grateful for a cloudy night.  The obsession to observe did not allow me to make the decision to not observe, only something like a cloudy night, rain or snow, which was beyond my control.  I’m happy to say….I’m now cured of this malady.  🙂 

Want to become a better double star observer?  I’ve listed a few things as following which have helped me over the years:  

I’ve never been able to observe through a telescope eyepiece and stand at the same time, much less attempt a pencil sketch.  

Careful and skilled observing requires patience and comfort.  

And for those extremely close and difficult doubles, an eyepatch is necessary for the non-observing eye.  It’s important to relax the facial muscles and  it’s “absolutely” essential to hold the observing eye very still and on-axis….hence the need to be seated.   

Roger Ivester  

“If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word”   Margaret Atwood

 

Epsilon Bootis – Double Star – W. Struve’s “The Most Beautiful One”

Posted June 19, 2018 by rogerivester
Categories: Observer's Challenge Reports

Observer’s Challenge object for June 2019:  

Epsilon Bootis:  Called “Pulcherrima” or “the most beautiful one” by Struve.

At one time, observing double stars was the most popular facet of amateur astronomy, however, I think we can all agree, this is not the case as of current.  Sad indeed!   I say….fortunate indeed is the amateur who discovers the joy of observing double stars.

Nothing is more beautiful than a close pair with vivid and contrasting colors, such as Epsilon Bootis.

Want to have some fun tonight?  You don’t have to be concerned with the brightening moon, or ambient lighting, but take a look and try the very challenging double star Epsilon Bootis.

Good seeing is definitely required to see the companion of Epsilon.  On many nights with less than good seeing, I’ve failed to see the companion, even with a 102 mm refractor, or a 10-inch reflector with an effective aperture of 4-inches, using an off-axis stop-down mask.  

It is an unequal double with the primary being magnitude 2.37 and the secondary at 5.12, with a separation of 2.9″ which makes this double difficult for many observers.

I see the colors as a beautiful yellow and a vivid blue, with a clean separation at 175x using a 102 mm refractor.

This is an opportunity to observe one of the 2019 objects….a full one year early, but after viewing, you will want to observe this famous double many more times, now and in the future.

Quoting from Celestial Harvest by James Mullaney:

! Izar, Magnificently-tinted but tight pair. “Most beautiful yellow, superb blue.” Rather difficult in apertures under 4-inches.  A 3-inch at 150x shows two beautifully-colored diffraction disk nearly in contact!  ….called “Pulcherrima” or “the most beautiful one” by Struve.  JM

Many have seen the companion with a 3-inch, and from Webb, even a 2-inch, however, for me, it’s always been at least 4-inches of aperture.  What will be the smallest telescope which will allow you to see the companion?

After all….every amateur should attempt to see a double star called “the most beautiful one.”

Roger Ivester

 

NGC 4236, Extremely Faint Galaxy In Draco – May 2018 – Observer’s Challenge Report #110

Posted June 7, 2018 by rogerivester
Categories: Observer's Challenge Reports

To read the complete LVAS Observer’s Challenge report, click on the link:

MAY 2018 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-4236

Rogers NGC-4236 Inverted b

10-inch reflector, and spending four hours in my attempt to see galaxy NGC 4236, of which the first three were unsuccessful.  However, during the forth hour, at well past 1:00 AM EDT, could glimpse an extremely faint, elongated NNW-SSE oriented blur of light as shown in my sketch.  The galaxy appeared featureless due to the extreme low surface brightness, and visible only intermittently with averted vision. 

Sky conditions were poor with a NELM of 4.9, which is about normal for springtime in the foothills of North Carolina.  There is a distinctive tilted half-circle of five stars, NNE of the galaxy which works well to assist in determining the exact location of this very faint galaxy, or better said, extremely faint galaxy. 

On the previous night, under the same conditions, using a 6-inch reflector, the galaxy was invisible, despite spending two hours in my search. 

Roger Ivester

 

Image by Dr. James Dire from Hawaii

NGC4236

NGC 4236 By Dr. James R. Dire

NGC 4236 is a faint, nearly edge-on barred spiral galaxy in the constellation Draco.  The constellation is often overlooked due to its low surface brightness.  The galaxy is relatively large in our sky, spanning 24 x 6.8 arcminutes. Its integrated magnitude is 9.63. NGC4236 is located 11.7 million light years away and is part of the M81 galaxy group.  It rivals M81 in size. However, M81 is 3 magnitudes brighter!

NGC 4236 is located “above” the open cup of the Big Dipper Asterism. Its distance above the cup is approximately the same as the distance between the two starts forming the top of the cup – Dubhe and Megrez.  NGC4236 lies just over a degree west of a linear trio of stars: 4, 5 and 6 Draconis.  Both 4 and 6 are 5th magnitude and are orange and yellow, respectively, while 5 is 4th magnitude and blue in color.

Despite its brightness and location near naked-eye stars, NGC 4236 can be very difficult to find, even with a GOTO mount.  The Image was taken with a 70mm f/6 apochromatic refractor using a 0.8x focal reducer/field flattener.  The exposure was a whopping 3 hours.  In the image, north is up and east is to the left.

In the image, the bright blue star on the left edge is 5 Draconis.  The orange star is 4 Draconic. Those two stars are separated by 40 arcminutes.  The smudge just above the center is NGC4236.  The exposure captured about half the actual length of the galaxy, essentially the galaxy’s central bar and the inner, brighter spiral arms.

To help identify the galaxy in the eyepiece, note the arc of three stars on the northeast side of the galaxy.  The top star is magnitude 8.3, while the lower two are magnitude 10.5.  There is also a magnitude 9.8 star on the south end of the galaxy’s major axis.  Seeing these four stars in the eyepiece allows one to center the galaxy in the eyepiece and then using averted vision to see the galaxy.

I viewed NGC 4236 this month in three telescopes.  The first was a 190mm f/5.3 Maksutov-Newtonian reflector using a 14mm eyepiece (71.4x).  I centered the galaxy using the four stars around it as described above.  Direct vision did not produce the galaxy. However, with averted vision I was barely able to make out the elongated shape of the very diffuse galaxy.

I next viewed the galaxy using an Orion 12-inch, f/4.9 Dob using a 20mm Televue Nagler eyepiece (75x).  The galaxy was just as difficult to see in this scope as the Mak-Newt.  This was probably because the Dob’s optics are nowhere as good as the Mak-Newt.  Plus, I later discover that the primary mirror on this astronomy club telescope was extremely dirty (I have since professionally cleaned it and recollimated it).

Finally, I viewed NGC4236 with a friends Orion 14-inch, f/4.6 Dob with clean optics and a good collimation. Through this telescope, the galaxy could be seen directly.  I could see about the same visual detail as in my image!   JD 

The Three Types of Astronomical Deep-Sky Sketches.

Posted May 14, 2018 by rogerivester
Categories: Roger's Articles

A while back, it occurred to me there was not a definitive identification of the various deep-sky sketches.  Well now….it’s my opinion, there are basically three types which have never been properly identified or named.  

My interpretation or opinion of the three types of astronomical deep-sky sketches are as following:  

Detailed visual telescope sketching:  Observing an object through a telescope via an eyepiece. Drawing the object on paper or a sketch card “as verbatim” as possible using a pencil, or pencils of various hardness.  

I’m not a graphic artist….just a humble amateur astronomer with more than forty years of experience as a backyard observer.  I do not use paints, colored pencils or in anyway attempt to embellish my sketches.  

Impression sketching:  A sketch made at the eyepiece, using a pencil, charcoal, or chalk and representing what the observer mentally perceives, without a great degree of scale or detail. 

Want to know more about this type of sketching? 

Pull out your copy of the “Messier Album” by John Mallas and Evered Kreimer.  Mallas does an excellent job with this type of sketching:  

“The sketches were made on vellum-type drafting paper with a soft pencil, using finger smudging and erasing until the desired effects were achieved.”  John Mallas 

Computer-enhanced sketching:  A sketch generated using a computer, from “sometimes” a rough pencil sketch.  Now it’s my opinion….why bother.  From all computerized sketches I’ve seen, the sketch appears very similar to that of a digital camera image, “and” normally as would be seen through a much larger telescope.  

However, if you choose this system of sketching, please let it be known to your readers that it is a computer assisted or generated drawing, and not a pencil sketch as seen through the eyepiece.   

Examples of:  “Detailed visual telescope sketches:  

The following is a representation or an illustration of my sketches, using only a pencil, an eraser and a blank 5 x 8 notecard with the colors inverted via a computer or scanner.  

Rogers NGC-2371 Inverted

Rogers M-081 Inverted

Rogers M-082 Inverted

Gamma Virgo - Correct Position Angle

Rogers M-53a

Pacman Nebula - NGC 281

M13 And The Elusive Propeller

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