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, 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 I 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.  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 again 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. I’ll never forget one special night using this humble 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 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 happened: 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 faint deep-sky objects that were impossible with my previous smaller telescopes. 

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, 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 tenth year in 2018.  

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 130,000 lifetime miles.     

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Keeping Double and Red Star Observing Alive In A Digital Age

Posted April 16, 2018 by rogerivester
Categories: Roger's Articles

Observing double stars would seem to be losing it’s appeal with current amateurs.  At one time this very important facet of amateur astronomy was the most popular, due in-part to most observers using small refractor telescopes.  

It was “The Finest Deep-Sky Objects” by James Mullaney and Wallace McCall (1966) that spawned my interest in both doubles, and red stars.  I purchased my copy during the mid-70’s.  

My friend Tom English, then an astronomy & physics professor at a local university has always been a serious double and red star observer.  Tom was very influential to my continued excitement with doubles and red stars.  About twenty years ago we often compared colors and observations.  However, as we know, star colors are arbitrary, as individuals often see different colors.  

I’ve always been the solitary backyard observer, but enjoyed the few years that Tom and I observed together.  

I still enjoy reading “Celestial Objects for Common Telescopes” (1859) by Rev. Thomas William Webb, which is mostly double star observations with colors by observers such as Burnham, Otto Struve, W. Herschel, J. Herschel, Franks, Aiken and the list goes on.

Colorful doubles and red stars:  “The jewels of the night-sky” 

Roger Ivester

Polaris – Double Star – Seeing the Companion With a Small Telescope, Maybe Even As Small As 60 mm’s?

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

Polaris has never gained much attention as a double star.  However, If you’ve had an interest in double stars, but never seemed to get started:  Polaris, also known as the “North Star” would be a great double to start with, especially with a smaller telescope.  

For this project, lets call a small refractor, anything 80 mm’s or less. 

Using the “Cambridge Double Star Atlas” by James Mullaney and Wil Tirion, as a reference:

Polaris has a magnitude of 2.1 and the secondary or companion at a much fainter 9.0 magnitude with a wide separation of 19 arc seconds.  The extreme difference in magnitudes can make this double more difficult to separate than you might think, especially if seeing is less than good. 

Sometimes I check this star frequently, when setting up, to gauge seeing.  Normally I don’t make a sketch or notes due to having looked at this double so many times over the years. 

However, I do have some notes and sketches from years past using some small telescopes.   

July 1996:  4-inch Meade Schmidt-Cassegrain f/10, model 2045d:  Seeing only fair, companion was not visible.  Roger Ivester – North Carolina 

September 1996:  4-inch Meade Schmidt-Cassegrain f/10, model 2045d: Seeing very good, could easily see the companion at 50x.  RI

September 1996:  5-inch C5 Schmidt-Cassegrain, white-tube with the single arm fork. Made in USA.  Easy, beautiful and clean.  RI

February 1997:  4-inch Meade Schmidt-Cassegrain f/10, model 2045d: Seeing only fair.  The companion was visible only intermittently.  RI 

October 1997:  90 mm Meade ETX Astro-Scope, Maksutov-Cassegrain: Seeing was good and the companion was very easy at 52x.  RI 

December 1998:  102 mm Vixen/Orion f/9.8 achromatic refractor: Very easy to see the companion at all magnifications.  Roger Ivester 

I was unsuccessful during the week of April 8th 2018, using my latest small economy Orion CT80 f/5 refractor.  Seeing was only fair, so I’ll try it again in the next night or so.   Roger Ivester 

April 17th 2018:  102 mm Vixen/Orion f/9.8 achromatic refractor:  Seeing was very poor, could still see the companion, but only intermittently, using full 102 mm aperture.  Did not even attempt with an effective aperture of 60 mm’s.  RI 

Mike McCabe of Massachusetts was able to see the companion last summer on a night of excellent seeing, using a vintage and classic Sears 60 mm f/15 refractor.   

Observing notes by Mike McCabe as following, for the night of April 18th 2018:

Well, you really got my interest with your lobbying everyone to try and go see the secondary to Polaris with a small scope.  I got lucky here last night – totally unexpected it was – with a clear and stable sky sometime around 9pm local time. 

At first I turned my interest to the 10% waxing crescent moon, and I brought out my SV80ED to have a quick look.  It was spectacular, with incredible earthshine on the moon and a dark, clear sky around it.  There were nearly as many stars in the view as you’d see during an eclipse!  I watched the moon occult a star (don’t know which one) and then toured the Haydes, the Pleiades and then Polaris.  The 80mm brought out the secondary with no trouble.

I decided to bring out the Sears 60mm f/15.  That was a good decision!  I put Polaris in the eyepiece and ramped the power up to 112x.  In short order I had the secondary in view at ~5:00 in the field of view.   

I’ve assembled a 0.965 eyepiece kit, which includes a 40mm, 25mm, 15mm, 12mm, 10mm, 8mm and a 2x Barlow.  I tried many eyepiece combinations, and must’ve looked at Polaris for an hour, and I could see the secondary from 60x all the way up to 180x.  The best magnification occurred at 90x, with 75x being a close second.  At 112x and higher it was still there, but more intermittently.

After last night I’m going with “it’s not only possible to see the secondary to Polaris in a 60 mm telescope, but very, very doable”.  

I have another 60 mm f/15 OTA (a 1980’s era Celestron FirstScope) which I am currently setting up.  I’m wanting to complete the Astronomical League’s Double Star list to receive my certificate which I started working on quite a few years ago, but have never finished.     Mike McCabe – Massachusetts 

April 19th 2018:  102 mm Orion/Vixen f/9.8 achromatic refractor with an effective aperture of 60 mm’s.  Seeing excellent: 12.5 mm eyepiece plus 2.8x Barlow for a magnification of 80x.  The companion was clearly visible as a tiny bluish dot.  Roger Ivester – North Carolina 

April 19th 2018:  Orion 80 mm (CT80) f/5 achromatic refractor.  Seeing excellent: 12.5 mm eyepiece plus 2.8x University Optics Klee Barlow for a magnification of 90x.  The companion was visible as a tiny bluish dot.  Very similar to the view using the 102 mm reduced to 60 mm’s.  A beautiful sight in both telescopes.   Roger Ivester  

When observing with my CT80, I use a 1.25-inch correct image diagonal.  For me it’s essential when I’m sketching a deep-sky object, to have the correct cardinal points in the eyepiece view.  I share a bit more in depth in the following link, and go to “Article.”

https://www.telescope.com/Orion/Accessories/Telescope-Diagonals/Orion-125-Correct-Image-Star-Telescope-Diagonal/rc/2160/pc/-1/c/3/sc/45/p/8787.uts

April 20th 2018:  Orion 80 mm (CT80) f/5 achromatic refractor.  Similar conditions to my observation on the 19th. Using the same eyepiece combinations (90x) and was able to easily see the companion as a tiny bluish dot.  RI 

The following is a photo of my 102 mm refractor with a stop-down mask for an effective aperture of 60 mm’s.  

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My Orion (CT80) 80 mm f/5 refractor.  Yes….I can see the companion to Polaris with this small short focal length achromatic refractor!  My son bought this telescope for my birthday, and it will always be a prized possession of mine….

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Orion CT80 Refractor Review

Posted April 4, 2018 by rogerivester
Categories: Roger's Articles

Telescope:  Orion 80 mm compact f/5 achromatic refractor.  Item #09202 

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I’ve been wanting a small economical refractor for visual observing only.  A telescope that could be used for those quick observing sessions when time is limited, and also for terrestrial viewing.  A telescope which could easily be taken on trips, but taking up very little space. 

A Surprise!

My son surprised me with an Orion model CT80 f/5 refractor as a gift.

This telescope is sold as an optical tube assembly, without accessories from Orion Telescopes and Binoculars.  However, no problem.  I have extra finders, an equatorial mount, plenty of eyepieces and a tripod for terrestrial viewing.

I was not wanting an expensive 70-80 mm apochromat, but an achromat, that was light and easy to take outside and bring back in.  

The dovetail mount fits perfectly to my Vixen/Orion GP mount.  I purchased a three pound counterweight about ten years ago, apparently just waiting for this scope.   It balances the telescope perfectly. 

A much smaller and lighter duty equatorial mount would be sufficient for the CT80, but the GP makes for a rock steady mount for sure.  A good quality tripod could also suffice for either astro or terrestrial viewing. 

When taking the scope outside, I carried both the telescope and mount with ease.  With the tripod legs folded together, I was able to hold everything with one arm, while opening and closing the door.  Everything was working perfect so far, but how would this little refractor perform on the night sky?

First Light:

My first target was the beautiful double star, Castor, in Gemini.  I started with 33x, but this was not enough magnification.  With the employ of a 2.8x Barlow, giving a magnification of 93x, I was amazed.  Castor was cleanly separated, with beautiful airy disc rings surrounding both components.  

My next object was the Trapezium in Orion.  The four primary components were crisp and clean even at 33x.  When increasing the magnification to 93x, it was a beautiful sight indeed.  

The Orion Nebula appeared very bright with excellent contrast.  I was actually surprised at this view, which would only be possible with a telescope having excellent anti-reflective coatings.   

What about galaxies?  

M81 and M82, located in Ursa Major, have always been two of my favorite galaxies.  They were very easy to locate, both fitting nicely within the large 1.8º field of view at a 33x magnification.  Beautiful!  This took me back forty years, when I first observed this galaxy pair with a 4.25-inch Edmund Equatorial reflector. 

I’d been outside for almost an hour which was my time allowance for this night.  

Never would I take out my 10-inch equatorially mounted reflector, or my 102 mm refractor or 6-inch reflector, both also with EQ mounts for ~45 minutes.  This telescope had already proved its value and convenience as being light and compact, and also providing excellent views of brighter deep-sky objects.  

The scope passed all test with flying colors.  I’m very impressed with my new telescope.   

Final:  A very portable and versatile telescope for an excellent price. 

Other purposes of the CT80 telescope.

https://www.telescope.com/Overview-Orion-CT80-80mm-Compact-Refractor-Telescope-OTA/p/129962.uts

Roger Ivester

 

NGC 2371-72 Planetary Nebula in Gemini – March 2018 Observer’s Challenge Report #109

Posted March 29, 2018 by rogerivester
Categories: Observer's Challenge Reports

Observer’s Challenge Report #109:  

MARCH 2018 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-2371-72

Pencil sketch using a 10-inch reflector with inverted colors.  

Rogers NGC-2371 Inverted

NGC 2371-2372, Planetary in Gemini, nebula magnitude 11.3; central star 14.8.

This planetary is easy to discern with 10-inch reflector from my moderately light polluted backyard. At low power (57x) the planetary appears as a faint and small elongated nebulous patch.

When increasing the magnification to 207x, and with a UHC narrowband nebula filter, two distinctive lobes become visible, connected by a faint haze. The nebula is oriented NE-SW, with the SW lobe being brighter and having greater concentration. The bright spot becomes visible using averted vision, located on the NW side of the westernmost lobe.

When first observing this planetary almost twenty five years ago, I mistakenly thought this bright spot to be the 14.5 magnitude central star. It was, however, during a later observing session in 1998 that I realized the bright spot was not centrally located and far too bright to be the extremely faint central star. Another observation the following year confirmed this.

NGC 2371-72 has a similar appearance, but not nearly as bright as M76 (NGC 650-1) planetary nebula in Perseus.

Roger Ivester

 

NGC 2371-72
By Dr. James R. Dire

My image of NGC 2371/2 was taken with an 8-inch f/8 Ritchey–Chrétien Cassegrain with a Televue 0.8x focal reducer/field flattener yielding f/6.4. It was captured with an SBIG ST-2000XCM CCD camera and the exposure was 2.5 hours.

James NGC-2371

The planetary nebula has what appears to be a regular elliptical shell, divided into two main segments by a dark major-axis lane. The bright lobes are thought to be from bipolar flow from the central star. The cyan colored emissions come from O-III atoms. My image picked up two outer blue arc, most likely from a previous layer of gas ejected from the star in a similar bipolar manner.   JD 

 

The following photo by Mario Motta from Massachusetts using a 32-inch reflector. 

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Inverted pencil sketch by Mike McCabe from Massachusetts.

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Inverted pencil sketch by Jaakko Saloranta from Finland using an 8-inch reflector.

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Using a 76 mm (3-inch) Reflector and a Relaxing Hour….Enjoying The Wonders of The Night Sky

Posted March 17, 2018 by rogerivester
Categories: Roger's Articles

Last night, I didn’t want to set up a larger telescope, but instead scanned the sky for more than an hour using a small 76 mm reflector.  

No notes, no sketches….just relaxing, and taking the advice of Leslie Peltier:  

“Were I to write out one prescription designed to alleviate at least some of the self-made miseries of mankind, it would read like this:  “One gentle dose of starlight to be taken each clear night just before retiring”.  Leslie Peltier

“Many books explain how to observe the sky; Starlight Nights explains why.”  In a way, Leslie Peltier is the patron saint of One Minute Astronomer.”   David Levy

So the next time you want to observe, but are a bit too tired, the weather is too cold or too hot:  why not spend a few minutes with binoculars, or a very small telescope, and you just might be surprised at what you see. Then there is also the benefit of a great nights sleep.  

I enjoy amateur astronomy much more than I did 50 years ago…as a 13 year old kid trying to find my way as an amateur in a weedy field, in the foothills of North Carolina.  

Roger Ivester

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M41- Open Cluster in Canis Major-February 2018 Observer’s Challenge Report #108

Posted March 9, 2018 by rogerivester
Categories: Observer's Challenge Reports

FEBRUARY 2018 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – M-041

Pencil sketch:  6-inch reflector @ 46x and 1.3º field of view: 

M41 Adjusted

Inverted colors

Rogers M-041 Inverted

Messier 41 (NGC 2287) at magnitude 4.5 is visible without optical aid. I often enjoy viewing this cluster with a pair of 7 x 21 mini-binoculars. It is easily located at about 4º south of Sirius, and NW of 6.0 magnitude 12 Canis Majoris.

A beautiful, but sparse cluster, very irregular shape, with several small chains of stars. The most noticeable star chains are on the SW and NE.

When using a 6-inch reflector, I can count ~60-70 stars. A small circlet of stars envelope the central region of the cluster. M41 contains the famous red star, known as the Espin star (HD 49091) magnitude of 6.9 and a K3 spectrum. The star was named after Rev. T.E. Espin (1858-1934.) I normally see this star as a deep-orange in color.    Roger Ivester

 

M41 image by James Dire:  

102mm (4-inch) f/7.9 refractor using a 0.8X focal reducer field flattener with an SBIG ST-2000XCM CCD camera. The exposure was 30 minutes. North is up, and east to the left.

M41

M41 is a beautiful galactic star cluster located 4° south of the bright star Sirius. The cluster can be seen naked eye from a dark site. It’s mag. 4.5 and is 39 arcminutes in diameter. It lies 2,350 light-years away

Aristotle noted M41 in 325BC as being a cloudy patch in the sky. The cluster was first cataloged by the Italian astronomer Giovanni Batista Hodierna in 1654, and then John Flamsteed in 1702. Charles Messier added it to his catalog in 1765.

M41 has about 100 stars. The brightest is a mag. 6.9 red giant star near the apparent center of the cluster, cataloged as HD49091. This K3 star has the brightness of 700 suns. The cluster is estimated to be 190 to 240 million years old and has a chemical composition similar to the sun.

The brightest star in the image is near the bottom edge, left of center. That star is 12 Canis Majoris, or HK Canis Majoris. HK is a mag. 6 blue giant star with a surface temperature of 18,000K. HK is only half the distance of M41 and thus is not a member of the cluster. The next brightest star in the image is the red giant HD49091, the red giant star near the center of the cluster.   James Dire 

 

International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) Fully Shielded Home Lighting. Sold by Lowe’s Home Improvement

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

My first fully shielded house light, with one more to go.  I purchased this one at Lowe’s on Sunday, and put it up today.  Threw away the old standard brass coach light which  spewed light in your eyes when coming in the front door.  You can actually see the house much better when driving up the street.  All the light shines down in a nice concentrated beam.  I need one more for my back door.  The fixture is well made and was very simple to install….

 
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