Archive for October 2011

My First Telescope And Other Important Life Events:

October 29, 2011

My first serious telescope:  A 4-1/4-inch f/10 Edmund Scientific Reflector.  In 1977, I now owned a new scope which came with a 25 mm eyepiece, and later an Edmund 12mm Kellner eyepiece, and a MAG 5 Star Atlas.  

Now, what else could I possibly need to be a serious amateur astronomer?  Or so I thought at that time.  

The following photo was taken in 1977, when I was renting an “old and very cold house” built in 1927.  Heating and air conditioning was difficult and very expensive.  I was really glad to find a better house that was affordable, but only after a couple years.  After all, I’d just accepted my first “real job” that paid a pretty decent salary.   

Scanned Image 113400004                           

My first observations were made during the mid-60’s at about twelve years old.  I used my older brother’s 60mm f/15 Sears (Jason) refractor with an equatorial mount.  He purchased the scope for about a $100, which at the time was a lot of money!  That would be about $900 in 2021. 

Unfortunate for me, he sold the scope after a few years which left me without a telescope until I could purchase my own. During this absence without a telescope, I somewhat lost interest in astronomy, until the mid-70’s. 

Events by year: 

During the late fall (about 1965) just after sunset, I would notice a small cluster of stars rising about the tree tops in the east.  It would take me a while, but I did learn that it was the “Pleiades” or M45.  My first deep-sky object. 

October 1967:  I gave an astronomy presentation to my 8th grade science class, again, using my brothers 60mm refractor.  The subject and title was:  “How To Use An Astronomical Telescope.”  

March 1977:  I purchased my first telescope, a 4 1/4-inch f/10 Edmund Scientific reflector on an equatorial mount.  Life was good!

I could hardly wait to get to Science Hobbies in Charlotte, on that Spring day.  The price for this 4 1/4-inch telescope was $159.99, which at that time was quite a bit of money.  I had been looking at this scope in the Edmund Scientific catalog for almost a year. 

Purchasing this “humble” little scope, my very own after all this time was indeed a happy day for me.  My preference was the Edmund Scientific 6-inch Super Space Conquerer, but just could not spring for the extra money at that time.  It seems that the price of the 6-inch was only about $100 more, however, at this point in my life, $300 for a telescope was far beyond my budget.  

However, It didn’t take long to realize that I needed a larger aperture scope, and soon sold the 4 1/4-inch reflector.  

February 1978:  I purchased a 6-inch Criterion RV-6 reflector, complete with an equatorial mount and a clock drive.  My astronomy program was about to take a big leap forward!  

Below:  The RV-6 on the left, and the Edmund 4-1/4 pictured on the right, with my oldest son in 1978.

Favorite Telescopes From The Past

I really liked my new Criterion RV-6,  but life got busy and my observing  had to take a back seat to a lot of other stuff.   I didn’t have any time to think about the stars, so I sold my the Criterion telescope….a big mistake, indeed.  

1985-86:  I become acquainted with some local amateur astronomers and became a founding member of the Cleveland County Astronomical Society along with my youngest son, who is now living in Nevada.

A goal to meet, not in astronomy, but cycling:  

Finally, after almost thirty years, on Saturday, October 11th 2008, I was able to achieve my lifelong goal of 100,000 miles on my bicycle. This had been my goal for quite a few years and was really excited to reach this milestone.  When I first started riding in 1979, never would I have thought I’d eventually log 100,000 miles.  It should be noted, I did not count my miles for the first year or so.  

My current “documented” miles is approximately 130,000 as of August 2021.

October 11th 2008:  My wife put together a celebration with cycling friends at a local coffee shop. 

100,000 Broad River Coffee Shop

I have two great hobbies: Amateur astronomy and cycling!


October 2012:  All my grandkids together in South Carolina. 



December 2011:  Driving my son’s tractor with granddaughter in Las Vegas.  

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I love hiking in the Mojave desert with my granddaughter (2011)

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My two sons…


February 5th 1992:  I purchased a 10-inch f/4.5, equatorial reflector.  One of the first things I purchased after the telescope was an adjustable astro-chair, which I still use today.  It’s just not possible for me to observe, sketch and take notes while standing. 


February 20th 1992,  my first night of serious observing:  I was amazed when observing faint galaxies, after all, this was a much larger scope than I was used to using.  Objects that were on the threshold of seeing, were now bright, and structure was visible.  It was truly a revelation as compared to the much smaller 4-inch scopes that I had mostly used.   I could see dark lanes in the bright open cluster M35, and the faint cluster NGC 2158 was almost glowing.  My favorite galaxies, M81-82 looked nothing like what I had seen on that night in the 70’s when I first saw them using my, then new,  4 1/4-inch Edmund reflector.  

I was smiling while observing the low-surface brightness galaxy, M101, and knew that my observing would never be the same.

My wife, pictured with the 102mm refractor:


 As mentioned earlier, I was sorry for selling my RV-6.  So, a few years ago, I replaced it with a 6-inch f/6 TPO reflector.  And the last photo, was a birthday gift from my son.  An 80mm short focal ratio refractor.  

Criterium Bike Race Brings Cyclings Best To Shelby, North Carolina

October 24, 2011

I found this picture of an annual cycling event that took place in Shelby, North Carolina from 1996 to about 2000.  It was “The Shelby Criterium” a closed looped course in the uptown area.  Mike Keeley served as director.  

The above picture is Pro Elite Cyclist, Eric Wohlberg who was riding for Saturn/Timex at the time, my wife, Debbie and myself.  Wohlberg finished second during the year pictured. His career spanned at least 20 years, and here are a only a few of his many accomplishments.  He was a three time Olympian, winner of the Tour of Gila (a stage race held in New Mexico) and eight time Canadian National Time Trial Champion.  

Eric became good friends with Mike Keeley, and would stay at Mike and Rhonda’s house when racing in the criterium.  I also became friends with Eric and would share an occasional email with him over the years.  Being a car person myself, Eric would often share photos of his progress on  the restoration of a 1965 Mustang, and later a Sunbeam Tiger. 

If you’re old enough, and remember the TV series “Get Smart” you’ve probably seen a Sunbeam, as Maxwell Smart drives one up to his office, each and every episode. 

The Sunbeam Tiger was produced in England from 1964 through 1967, using a 289 cubic-inch Ford engine, and a 4-speed Ford transmission.  A very rare and desirable car for the astute and serious car collector, for sure.    

Mike Keeley and I were fortunate to have been able to take some enjoyable and casual bike rides with Eric, and also share some good conversations, both on the road and off.     

Eric Wohlberg has been inducted into the Canadian Cycling Hall of Fame.

Eddy Merckx from Belgium attended as a spectator at least one of the Shelby Criterions: 

Merckx is the most famous cyclist of all time.  Winning the Tour de France five times, five Tours of Italy, one Tour of Spain, three world championships, and every major one-day race.  He also set the “hour record” in 1972, Mexico City.   

Cycling comes to Cleveland County:  

During the spring of 1980, I read an article in the Shelby Star about some local cyclist, participating in an event, called “The Assault on Mount Mitchell” which caught my attention.  The ride started in Spartanburg, South Carolina and finished at the top of the highest peak east of the Mississippi at 6,684 feet above sea level…a place called Mount Mitchell.  

I thought…maybe this is something I’d like to do, as a challenge to myself.  So I began riding for my  preparation for the 1981 event.  All I can say, it was the most difficult physical event I’d ever participated in my entire life. 

I was new to cycling, and had not eaten enough, nor drank enough water, and was totally dehydrated. 

In Spartanburg, the temperature that that June morning in 1981, was about 75º, but 103 miles later, the temperature at Mount Mitchell was 55º, and with a 35 mph wind gust.  After reaching the top it felt really cold, due in-part to my sweat soaked cycling clothes.  I was freezing, and this was June!

I lost almost ten pounds in less than nine hours, after leaving Spartanburg, when finally reaching the top.  On several occasions I stopped at water falls, coming out of the rocks, and would stand underneath the gushing springs with my eyes closed.  I had a fabulous feeling come over me…no pain, and the very cold water out of the mountain felt icy cold.  But the good feeling was brief, and only lasted till I opened my eyes.  Many more miles to Mount Mitchell, and the pain and weakness would come back with a vengeance, after getting back on my bike.  

However, after another hour or so, I finally made it! 

Unfortunately, I became sick numerous times on the way down the mountain, via my car ride home.  The next year, however, I was better prepared and didn’t have any problems.  I would eventually do the “Assault on Mount Mitchell” seven more times. 

The late, Charlie Rhoden (local pharmacist and drug store owner) brought advanced cycling to Shelby and surrounding communities in the late 70’s.  Charlie would later become the North Carolina State Road Racing Champion for multiple years, and also the state Time Trial Champion.  I learned a lot from Charlie.  

Charlie’s theory for becoming a better cyclist:   “Always ride with someone better than yourself… and you will become a better cyclist.”    

This could also apply to our personal lives:  Think about it…  

Eric Wohlberg inducted into the Canadian Cycling Hall of Fame

Beech Mountain, North Carolina: A Challenging Ride On a Bicycle

October 19, 2011

During the 1990’s:  The Tour du Pont finished two stages at the top of Beech Mountain…different years of course, with Lance Armstrong winning one of them.  This was before his cancer diagnosis, while riding for Motorola.  

Beech is the highest incorporated town east of the Mississippi at 5,500 feet, and not very far from Boone, North Carolina.

I’ve ridden my bike to the top of Beech at least fifteen or more times over the years.  The last time was 2010 with my good friend and cycling partner Mike Keeley.  It was a late October day, and we began our ride from the Mask General Store in Valle Crucis, then taking highway 194 to Banner Elk.

While climbing the mountain the weather changed suddenly, becoming cloudy, windy and cold.  However, we were fortunate to get to the top and back down without encountering rain.

It can be difficult in selecting a day to climb Beech Mountain, especially this late in the year, as within minutes it can begin to rain or snow.  

(Supplemental)  October 20th 2011 @ 7:41 PM – It snowed today on Beech, and the forecast is for snow showers tonight. 


The Observers Challenge Report

October 17, 2011

What is the Observers Challenge?   In brief, it’s an international observing program that allows amateur astronomers to compare observations, sketches and images each and every month. 

The first edition of the Observers Challenge was February 2009.

At current there are particpates from all across the country, including one member from Hawaii, and now Finland. It’s open to anyone with an interest in astronomy.

Las Vegas Jan 2010 073

Zoe Ivester taking a break after several miles of hiking near Red Rock Canyon. 

A New Astronomy Club Is Founded: The Cleveland County Astronomical Society, Boiling Springs, NC

October 14, 2011

This picture was made on a weekday afternoon in the summer of 1987 at Simmons Air Field, located a few miles south of Polkville, North Carolina. The grass landing strip provided the first dark-site for club observing

We had our meetings at that time in the basement of the Lutheran Church in Shelby, then we moved to the old courthouse, now known as the Earl Scruggs Center. 

In the early 90’s, we would begin having our meetings at the Williams Observatory, on campus of Gardner-Webb University.


That’s me in the right-center, not looking at the camera.  I rode my bicycle for the photo, with a T-shirt tucked in my cycling jersey back-pocket.

The youngest guy in the picture, is my son, Brad.  He is now in his mid-40’s (2021) and living in the desert southwest. 

The Polkville Airstrip in the day…



The Regional Meeting of Amateur Astronomers:

Tom English (L) myself (C) and Don Olive during one the Regional Meetings of Amateur Astronomer’s at Gardner-Webb University.  The club hosted this event for almost 25 years.


More information concerning the astronomy club as provided by Tom English: 

My first introduction to the CCAS was shortly after I was hired at Gardner-Webb College in fall 1989 (it became a University later) when G-W Biology/Geology Professor Les Brown told me that Ken Vassy had contacted him and asked him to relay to the new astronomer(me) that Ken was reviving the club and holding meetings in his classroom at Cleveland Community College.  So sometime in the fall of 1989, I went over there to meet him before I actually attended a meeting.  Ken was quite a character, and he was excited about getting the club back in business.

The original CCAS followed in the wake of Comet Halley, as did so many astronomy clubs in the U.S. in the 1980s. Paul Webb was the driving force behind the club.  When Paul moved to South Carolina, the CCAS lost its impetus, and quickly ceased operations.  With plans underway to build a campus observatory at Gardner-Webb, Ken saw an opportunity to resurrect the club. 

CCAS past presidents and officers:  (photo taken in about the mid 90’s) 

Back row left to right:  Brett Clapper, Tom English, Paul Webb:   Front row left to right:  BoB Eskridge, Ken Vassy, Roger Ivester, Tom Lorenzin, Steve Davis

Lost Arrow Ranch” and a tribute to Mike Price:

The CCAS also had a dark-site in Rutherford County in later years. It was known as the “Slab” to the astronomy community, named so, for a concrete patio…apparently from an old house, that occupied the location at one time.

The following is a photo of Mike Price, who passed away, Friday (December 17th 2021)

Mike considered himself only the caretaker of more than 1,500 beautiful and mostly untouched acres, given the name “Lost Arrow Ranch.” It is a truly a dark-site, perfect for astronomical observations and for those seeking quiet and refuge from the modern day world.

He was a pilot and owned his own aerobatic plane. Before one of our observing sessions, he gave us an exhibition of his flying skills. All I can say…AMAZING!

Mike and Jackie are honorary members of the Cleveland County Astronomical Society (CCAS).

An observing event at “Lost Arrow Ranchin 2016: Barre Spencer (passed away in 2022) and me.

Jackie Price and Bob Eskridge

Brett Clapper, and others eating at the pavillion at “Lost Arrow Ranch”

Mike and Jackie cooking:

Debbie Ivester with Mike and Jackie’s dog. (2016)

Mike Price Obituary:

Supplemental photos of the observing area, made today (Tuesday, December 21st)

The concrete “Slab” where we once observed from, but later moved a few hundred yards to the “Hill” which allowed for a better view of the East and Western sky.

The “Observing Hill” where we would set-up telescopes in “more” recent times:

Satellite view of the observing area via Google Maps. The “observing hill” is to the left or the somewhat circular clearing and the “Slab” is the square toward the right.

The First “Regional Meeting Of Amateur Astronomers” Aka “BoBfest”

October 13, 2011

The first event was held on January 23rd 1993 in the Ritch Banquet Hall, on campus of Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, North Carolina. There was approximately 75 amateurs attending, from local, to as far away as Tennessee, South Carolina, and Virginia. The following is a brief description of how the event got started:  

The Carolina Skygazers of Rock Hill, South Carolina held an annual astronomy event.  The purpose of this event was to allow anyone who had received a new telescope, or other astronomy equipment for Christmas, the opportunity to “show and tell.” 

Due to conflicting events, the normal meeting room at the York County Museum would not allow the regular scheduled astronomy program to take place and had to be cancelled.  

The telephone call that started it all:  

After finishing the CCAS monthly newsletter together one night, Tom English received a call from Bob Eskridge, who would inform him that the Rock Hill event was being cancelled.  There was a discussion between Tom and Bob about the possibility of the Cleveland County Astronomical Society taking over this event.  It was agreed by all concerned that the CCAS, would host a new event, titled “The Regional Meeting of Amateur Astronomers,”  also to be known as, “BoBfest.”  The meeting would include, astronomy speakers, vendors, solar observing, a swap table, and most importantly the opportunity for amateurs in the region to just get together and have a good time. 

Shortly thereafter, plans were already being made to host the “Regional Meeting  of Amateur Astronomers” at the Ritch Banquet Hall, on campus of GWU. The date was set, Saturday, January 23rd 1993, and the rest is history.  

Why “BoBfest?” (we always use an extra capital B)  Was it called “BoBfest” to honor BoB Eskridge?  (then and now, known as “The Ambassador of Astronomy” of the Southeast)…. or was it  just because Tom English and Chris Glaves liked the sound?  The truth is that they thought BoBfest sounded a bit more relaxed and fun than “The Regional Meeting.” 

Tom English did not feel like he should serve as president, but was the catalyst of the club in many ways, for a lot of years. However, Tom did become the newsletter editor.  If not for Tom, who was Professor of Astronomy and Physics at GWU at the time, we would not have had access to the Williams Observatory for our home and meetings. This allowed for stability of the club, which was critical for it’s survival in the early years.

I found this nice photo of former presidents and officers of the CCAS, also Tom Lorenzin, author of 1000+ The Amateur Astronomer’s Field Guide to Deep-Sky Observing.  The picture was made in January of 2003 outside the Ritch Banquet Hall.

Back row, left to right: Brett Clapper, Tom English, Paul Webb

Front row, left to right: Bob Eskridge, Ken Vassey, Roger Ivester, Tom Lorenzin, and Steve Davis 

Downtown Boiling Springs, North Carolina

October 9, 2011

Click on photos to enlarge: 





Helping Granddaughter Zoe, Drive Her Dad’s 870 John Deere Tractor in Las Vegas

October 9, 2011

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Zoe is a pretty good tractor driver!

NGC 6946 Spiral Galaxy in Cepheus

October 9, 2011

My first observation of NGC 6946 was in October of 1992.  I was using my 10-inch reflector, at 57x from my backyard.  My notes were very brief:  Faint and large with low surface brightness. Once found, easy to see. October 4, 1994, 10-inch @ 114x:  A triangle of three bright stars to the south.  The surface brightness is very low, and a brighter nucleus was noted.  Several faint stars could be seen superinposed in the galaxy, and the edges fade very gradually.  At low power the galaxy appears as little more than a faint glow, with a mostly round shape. October 26, 1994, 10-inch reflector at 114x:  Very large and easy to see.  I do think that spiral structure could be seen during the last observing session. There have been many other observations since 1994, always looking for the spiral structure that I had noted during an earlier observing session. September 29, 2011:  Observing from a dark site in the South Mountains, about 20 miles north of my home in Boiling Springs, North Carolina.  I was observing with Steve Davis, my good friend and observing partner of many years.  He brought a 14.5 inch reflector, however, the skies and transparency were very poor, due to high moisture.  The NELM was very close to 5.0, possibly a bit less.  When using 108x, the galaxy was fairly easy to see, oval in shape, with a brighter, more concentrated middle.  However, with the poor sky conditions, there was no trace of spiral structure.  We were both disappointed.  On a good night this site would allow for a NELM of 7.0 or better. October 2, 2011.  The following sketch was made from my moderately light polluted backyard. 

My 10-inch presented the galaxy as fairly dim, with a brighter and more concentrated middle, with quite a few faint embedded stars.  With careful viewing, and spending almost two hours looking at this galaxy, during fleeting moments, I could finally, at last confirm spiral structure.  A spiral arm could be seen with averted vision, coming out of the east side and curving south.  There were other areas of spiral structure noted almost throughout the galaxy, however, this was very difficult, and was fleeting at best.  After nineteen years of attempting to confirm spiral structure, I was both excited and pleased.  It had been a long wait, but for sure worth it. Roger Ivester