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 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.   


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.  

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

Roger and Debbie Ivester 

  1. IMG_9550

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.      



Planetary Nebula IC 1295 In Scutum: August 2018 Observer’s Challenge Report

Posted September 20, 2018 by rogerivester
Categories: Observer's Challenge Reports


Image by Mario Motta from Massachusetts, using a 32-inch reflector


Las Vegas Astronomical Society, Annual Observing Event at Cathedral Gorge, Nevada. Date: Thursday September 6th Thru The 9th 2018

Posted September 15, 2018 by rogerivester
Categories: Roger's Articles

Cathedral Gorge, Nevada, deep-sky observing site.  What a beautiful place!  


Below:  Robert Sherman facing away, and standing beside John Heller’s 25-inch Obsession reflector.  Fred Rayworth’s 16-inch Meade in the center of the photo.  


Christina Feliciano (R) and Cindi Heller to the left.


Below:  Fred Rayworth. 


Jay and Liz Thompson with the LVAS 24-inch club scope.  





Planetary Nebula NGC 6818 “The Little Gem” and Galaxy NGC 6822 “Barnard’s Galaxy – Sagittarius

Posted September 1, 2018 by rogerivester
Categories: Observer's Challenge Reports

The September 2018 Observer’s Challenge object is PN, NGC 6818.  Several observers have already observed this beautiful and easy planetary.  It’s interesting to note that Sue French covers this planetary in her latest column. (Pages 54-56, DSW’s)

“… the Little Gem, NGC 6818 in Sagittarius.  John H. Mallas claims credit for its name and writes, “Of all the planetaries in the heavens, ‘the Little Gem’ is probably the bluest.  Its color is beautiful, and I have yet to see an artist’s paint to describe the color.”  (The Review of Popular Astronomy: June/July 1963)

When my brother bought a 60 mm f/15 EQ refractor in ~1962-63 (the telescope that spawned my life-long interest in astronomy)

My brother also had a subscription to “The Review of Popular Astronomy” and with this magazine, gave me some valuable information on amateur astronomy.  

However, it would be about five years later before I would begin to effectively use this small refractor at 14 years of age.  The fall of 1967, was my official starting point as an observer.  It was this year that I gave my first astronomy presentation to my 8th grade science class.   Roger

Using PN, NGC 6818 to locate NGC 6822, Barnard’s Galaxy:

NGC 6818 is also a great starting point to find the “most difficult” NGC 6822, known as “Barnard’s Galaxy.  So when you are observing NGC 6818, consider giving galaxy NGC 6822 a try.  This galaxy has always been a tough object for me. 

It was ~30 years ago when I first read about NGC 6822 in Burnham’s Celestial Handbooks: 

“….and was discovered by the sharp-eyed E.E. Barnard telescope with a 5-inch refractor in 1884.  For the small telescope it is not a particularly easy object.  though its visibility depends chiefly upon the darkness of the skyand the type of telescope used.  Hubble found it “fairly conspicuous” in a short focus finder with a low-power ocular, but barely discernible at the primary focus of the 100-inch.”   BCH Volume three, Pages 1616-1619 

Interesting and coincidental:  Also in the October S&T, Peter Tyson; discuses NGC 6822, Barnard’s Galaxy.  “The Big Empty” P-4, a lonely outpost between the Milky Way and the Local Void.”

NGC 6822 (Barnard’s galaxy) in Sagittarius:


It should also be noted that a very low surface brightness, extended object can often times be better observed at low magnification with a small refractor.  A good example of this would be NGC 6822 (Barnard’s Galaxy) in Sagittarius.  

“A weak glow but definite glow in 6 cm, where it appears elongated N-S and shows a very slight central concentration.  In 25 cm motion of the field helps in showing the low surface brightness galaxy, but it is difficult and ill-defined at best.” Observing Handbook and Catalog Of Deep-Sky Objects by Christian B. Luginbuhl and Brian A. Skiff.  

Finally…after almost 25 years (many years I attempted with my 10-inch reflector) but had never been successful.  In September 2014, I was able to sketch and make notes of this elusive galaxy, NGC 6822, using the 102 mm refractor.  Much of my problem has been due to light glow from a pesky unshielded street light in close proximity to my backyard.  A dark sky is critical for locating and observing this faint low surface galaxy.  So…..another difficult object checked off my list. 

The following sketch was made using a 102 mm refractor, a blank 5 x 8 notecard and a No. 2 pencil with the colors inverted using a scanner.

Rogers NGC-6822

The following image by James Dire of Hawaii using a 190 mm Orion Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope.


Messier 4 – Globular Cluster in Scorpius – July 2018 Observer’s Challenge Report

Posted August 24, 2018 by rogerivester
Categories: Observer's Challenge Reports

Click on the following link for the complete report:  


Notes from my backyard:

Globular cluster, M4 is easy to see with a 60 mm refractor, appearing as a faint circular glow at low magnification.  When using a 3.5-inch Maksutov-Cassegrain at 78x, there is a resolve of some of the brighter members.  The cluster has a subtle elongated shape.  A very faint chain of stars was noted in the central region, oriented N-S.  With 102 mm refractor, there is a greater number of stars resolved within the cluster, and much greater concentration of stars, elongated and with more stars in the central chain. A prominent double star is located on the SE edge.   

10-inch reflector at 140x, excellent resolve of the cluster. The center chain of stars is very bright and with many stars counted, both in the central region and around the outer edges.  A chain of stars makes an arc, the entire length of the cluster on the NW side.  The elongation shape becomes much more apparent with the larger aperture.      Roger Ivester 

Pencil sketch with the colors inverted using a 102 mm refractor @ 140x 

Rogers M-004 Inverted



What? Sand Dunes In The Northeastern Corner Of South Carolina, 50 Miles From The Atlantic Ocean! And Also Very Dark Skies

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

While visiting family in Mullins, South Carolina over the past few years, I’ve discovered some fabulous dark-sky areas, perfect for the use of an astronomical telescope.  

Only a few miles outside the city limits, there are country roads, agriculture fields, and no houses or lights for miles and miles.  

Hopefully in future visits, I’ll be able to take one of my smaller telescopes, but unfortunately, like most all locations on the east coast, cloudy skies seem to prevail.  

However, this trip yielded some beautiful skies, but on our first night we were too tired to attempt to see the Perseid meteor shower. 

The next morning….Tuesday August 14th 2018.  

When driving in a secluded area, via unfamiliar country roads, you never know what you may find:   

While riding around with my oldest grandson, who just got his learners permit, and I was sharing my wisdom, of how to be a safe driver.  During our  leisure drive, we found something very interesting:  

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 Bald Cypress trees growing out of the black murky water, Spanish moss hanging from the trees, and who knows…..maybe even an alligator or two in that dark water!

Note:  This very remote small sandy area is a protected site.  I took some pictures as following, but somehow missed the eerie swamp.   





Stopped and using the car as a size reference, to a part of the protected site: 

Version 2


South Carolina Grandkids


Debbie (Grammy) with granddaughter Gracie


Couldn’t leave our Sophie behind!  She’s ready to go anytime we are! 



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

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


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