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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Planetary Nebula IC 418 in Lepus

Posted February 14, 2018 by rogerivester
Categories: Observer's Challenge Reports

Planetary Nebula IC 418, Lepus, magnitudes; nebula 9.3; central star 10.3

IC 418, also known as Spirograph Nebula.  The name derives from the intricate pattern of the nebula, which resembles a pattern which can be created using the Spirograph, a toy that produces geometric patterns (specifically, hypotrochoids and epitrochoids) on paper.  Source “wikipedia”

The following image:  Hubble Space Telescope

Spirograph_Nebula_-_Hubble_1999

I had a telephone conversation with Glenn Chaple yesterday.  Glenn mentioned PN IC 418 as a potential object for the 2019 observer’s challenge report. This planetary had been suggested by Joseph Rothchild at the most recent meeting of the (ATMoB) Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston. Richard Nugent also of Massachusetts sent me an email, saying he had only recently observed this very interesting planetary, using a 20-inch reflector.  

It was only after checking my notes “this morning” (February 14th 2018) did I discover I had observed this planetary 25 years ago on (February 14th 1993) which is very coincidental.  

My notes (verbatim) from February 14th 1993:

10-inch reflector:  Looks like a blurred star. I would focus on stars outside the telescope field and then sweep back. The nebula was very apparent and obvious when using this method. Nebula fairly bright, mostly round and featureless.  Bluish in color and very small.  No nebula filter was used.    

Skiff & Luginbuhl:  “This planetary is clearly visible in a 6 cm, appearing as an undistinguished mag. 9 star.  In 15 cm the central star becomes visible, while 25 cm shows it clearly at 200 x.  The surrounding nebula has a high surface brightness, making a poor contrast for the central star.”

This will be the February 2019 observer’s challenge object.   RI 
 

Visual Observing with a 6-inch f/6 Imaging Reflector Telescope: Is Sirius B possible With This Scope?

Posted February 10, 2018 by rogerivester
Categories: Roger's Articles

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The above photo of my now “prized” telescope.  I’m sure this scope is going to see a lot of use this year, and beyond.    Roger Ivester 

One of my desires has always been to bring back the excitement of the glory days of amateur astronomy, when all kids wanted a telescope.  The nights of the solitary observer in the backyard, attempting to locate and observe several of the showpiece Messier objects.

Those were the days for sure.  I wish it were possible to go back.  However, each and every night when I’m out in my backyard with my telescope….I become 13 years old again.  What a great feeling!

Now sharing my excitement from last night in North Carolina:  February 8th 2018

Yesterday, I received an email from observer’s challenge contributor, and email communications friend, Mike McCabe from Massachusetts.  He was very excited as he was finally able to see the companion to Sirius, known as Sirius B or “the pup.”

Mike was using an 8-inch reflector.  His excitement reminded me of my own several years ago when I was able (after ~40 years) to finally see “the pup” using a 102 mm f/9.8 refractor.  

Mike’s success in seeing Sirius B, caused me to want to know if it would be possible to achieve the same using my one year old, 6-inch f/6 (OTA) imaging reflector.  Due to working with my other telescopes, I’ve just not spent much time with this scope.

Last night I made my attempt (February 8th 2018) with the 6-inch to see if the companion to Sirius would be possible with this telescope.   The weather was perfect, 35º and totally calm. When I took my first look at Sirius, I knew that seeing was very good.

I started with 150x, but to no avail and worked my up to 232x, and there it was, but was unable to hold it constantly.  After more than 30 minutes with Sirius, I decided to attempt another challenge.

I then moved to the Trapezium in the center of the Orion Nebula. Starting with 232x, I was amazed how easy it was to see the E and F stars. There were beautiful airy disc surrounding the primary four Trapezium stars.  The beauty of a multiple or double star doesn’t get any better than this!

When I purchased the the 6-inch f/6 imaging reflector, I had no idea of the quality, either mechanically or optically.

However, I found out pretty fast, as star diffraction rings were “almost” identical when defocusing a star, in and out of focus.  After selling my Criterion RV-6, almost 40 years ago, I just wanted another 6-inch reflector, but not an f/8.

The humble optical tube assembly:  TPO brand, made in Taiwan, purchased from OPT in California, 2-inch focuser and also included tube rings.

The cost of the entire OTA was good also, only $199, not including shipping.  I don’t remember my old Criterion RV-6 being anywhere near this good, optically or mechanically.

I added an 8 x 50 finder, as it came with a tiny 6 x 30.  Not relative to the telescope, but I had to purchase another Vixen counter weight for my 20 year old GP mount, which is not pictured in the photo.

My primary reason for purchasing this scope was for portability and ease of carrying and set-up.  My 10-inch EQ reflector seems to get heavier with the passing of each and every year.

I never really expected such a quality 6-inch OTA for such an extremely low price.  This would show that sometimes you can actually get more than what you paid for.    Roger Ivester

NGC 1624 – Cluster (+) Nebula Perseus – January 2018 – Observer’s Challenge Report

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

Complete Observer’s Challenge Report:  Click on the following link.

JANUARY 2018 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-1624

Pencil sketch using a 5 x 8 note card with the colors inverted:  10-inch reflector at 200x.  Roger Ivester

Rogers NGC-1624 Inverted

Image by James Dire from Hawaii

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Image by Mario Motta from Massachusetts using a 32-inch telescope

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NGC 925 – Galaxy – Triangulum December 2017 Observer’s Challenge Report #106

Posted January 11, 2018 by rogerivester
Categories: Observer's Challenge Reports

Click on the following link for the complete Las Vegas Astronomical Society, Observer’s Challenge report: 

DECEMBER 2017 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-0925

Pencil Sketch:

Rogers NGC-0925 Inverted

Photo by Mario Motta from Massachusetts:  32-inch telescope 

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University Optics Close Doors After More than 55+ Years

Posted December 3, 2017 by rogerivester
Categories: Roger's Articles

I’m a bit late in finding out, but University Optics closed its doors in ~June 2017.  I am saddened to hear this. 

After 25 years, I still use my UO Konigs 12 mm, 16 mm, 24 mm in 1.25″ format, and a 32 mm 2-inch, and a 20 mm UO Erfle.  I also have a University Optics 2.8x Klee Barlow.  

About 15 years ago I called the owner, Mr. Seyfried.  My 12 mm Konig had a streak of light crossing the FOV when observing brighter stars.  Seyfried told me to send it back (after more than 10 years) and he would replace the lens.  

I received the EP back in less than a couple weeks, and it performs perfectly to this day.  Now this is a warranty and service for sure!  I was willing to pay, but Mr. Seyfried would have no part of this.  

An ad from the 70’s in S&T:  A complete UO 6-inch reflector OTA kit for sale.  You had to assemble all parts, black the inside, and paint the outside.  The cost was $164, and did I ever want this kit telescope!  

It’s for sure sad to see a company that supplied at one time, mirror making kits, mirror cells and other items which other vendors did not sell….out of business after 55+ years.  I like things to stay the same  😦 

Roger Ivester

NGC 772 – Galaxy In Aries – November 2017 Observer’s Challenge Report #105

Posted December 1, 2017 by rogerivester
Categories: Observer's Challenge Reports

LVAS Observer’s Challenge:  Click on the following link. 

NOVEMBER 2017 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE – NGC-0772

NGC 772, faint mag. 12 galaxy in Aries 

10-inch reflector at 104x, NGC 772 is faint, difficult with low surface brightness, elongated, but subtle, oriented NW-SE.  The middle is a bit brighter with little concentration.  A pin-point stellar nucleus was noted, however intermittently, and required averted version.  Very soft mostly even halo with the edges fading gradually outwards.  My observing location was from my my 5.0 NELM backyard.  

The last time I observed this galaxy was November 1993, from the same location and telescope.  My notes from that session were almost verbatim to my most recent observation.  A true dark site is necessary to see faint details and structure, especially when using a 10-inch telescope.    Roger Ivester

Pencil sketch 10-inch reflector with a 5.0 NELM

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Image and notes by James Dire from Hawaii using a 10-inch Newtonian Reflector

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Image by Mario Motta:  32-inch Telescope 

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Bob’s Knobs – Collimation Thumbscrews For Newtonian and Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescopes

Posted November 27, 2017 by rogerivester
Categories: Roger's Articles

It was almost forty years ago when I sold my 6-inch Criterion RV-6.  Life became really busy and just didn’t have time to observe for several years.

Earlier this year, I decided to replace the RV-6, with another 6-inch reflector.   I really didn’t need another telescope, but you know how that can be.

The telescope came with a bag of Bob’s Knobs thumbscrews, but I had not installed, until this weekend.  It was very easy….replacing one screw at a time and collimating after each replacement.

The 6-inch reflector: 

In the days of yesteryear, a 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 purpose telescope, especially with an f/6 focal ratio.   

Roger Ivester

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