Archive for June 2020

The “Great Lensnapping” By Guest Host: James Mullaney

June 17, 2020

Roger, I don’t know how many of your readers have heard of the “Great Lensnapping” that happened at the original Allegheny Observatory in Pittsburgh in the late 1800s.  

My beloved 13-inch Fitz-Clark had it’s objective lens stolen and held for ransom.  At the time, it was the third largest in the world!  (Now it’s the third largest in the current Observatory.)   

Samuel Pierpont Langley was director at the time and refused to pay anything, as no telescope in the country would then be safe from theft.  He finally met the thief at a hotel in a Pittsburgh suburb – the thief agreed to return it if Langley didn’t prosecute.  He subsequently found it in a waste basket at that very hotel.  

The lens was pretty well scratched up and Langley sent it to Alvin Clark for refinishing.  Thus the dual name Fitz-Clark.  As I’ve stated before, it is without question the finest visual telescope I’ve ever seen or used bar none!


Messier 8: Nebula and Cluster in Sagittarius – July 2020 Observer’s Challenge Report #138

June 11, 2020


Compiled by:

Roger Ivester, North Carolina


Sue French, New York

July 2020

Report #138

Messier 8, Nebula and Cluster in Sagittarius

Sharing Observations and Bringing Amateur Astronomers Together


The purpose of the Observer’s Challenge is to encourage the pursuit of visual observing. It’s open to everyone who’s interested, and if you’re able to contribute notes, and/or drawings, we’ll be happy to include them in our monthly summary. Visual astronomy depends on what’s seen through the eyepiece. Not only does it satisfy an innate curiosity, but it allows the visual observer to discover the beauty and the wonderment of the night sky. Before photography, all observations depended on what astronomers saw in the eyepiece, and how they recorded their observations. This was done through notes and drawings, and that’s the tradition we’re stressing in the Observer’s Challenge. And for folks with an interest in astrophotography, your digital images and notes are just as welcome. The hope is that you’ll read through these reports and become inspired to take more time at the eyepiece, study each object, and look for those subtle details that you might never have noticed before.

This month’s target:  

Messier 8 is made up a historically confusing collection of star groups and nebulosity. According to expert NGC/IC researcher Dr. Harold Corwin: “NGC 6523 is the star-forming core of M8 at the heart of the bright northwestern part of the nebula. NGC 6526 is the southeastern part of the nebula, and NGC 6530 is the bright star cluster 10-12 arcmin following N6523.  NGC 6533 applies to the entire M 8 complex, and IC 1271 and IC 4678 apply to condensations in its eastern reaches.”

You can read more about these and many other items of interest at: and 

 2019 and 2020 journal papers involving parts of the M8 complex use distances from 4.1 to 4.3 thousand light-years.  


Sue French:  Observer from New York

I’ve sketched M8 on two occasions. I worked on my first sketch during two nights in 1997 with my 105mm (4.1-inch) refractor at 87×. I did not use a star diagonal, so this drawing has north up and east to the right. My sketch paper back then left something to be desired. It took penciling very well, but was a bit yellowish and tended to look rumpled.


The second sketch was made in 2016 as seen through my130mm (5.1-inch) refractor at 48×, also on two nights. A narrowband (UHC) filter was used to help define the nebula, but no filter was used for the stars. The brightest star on the right-hand side of the sketch is 7 Sgr, which looked yellow through the scope. In this mirror-reversed view north is up and west is to the right. The small, butterfly-shaped region in the brightest part of the nebula is known as the Hourglass.



Mario Motta:  Observer from Massachusetts

For M8 it is large for my 32-inch, so I am sending two sets of images:  The first image is from my 32-inch which shows the center of the lagoon, and also highlights the star forming glow to the right of the lagoon itself, and the hourglass shape glow. 

This image taken with narrowband imaging Ha, O3, and S2, total about three hours.  Also Ha only as it shows detail, 1.5 hours

Next image an M8 wide field, taken with my 8-inch RC which was piggybacked on my scope. 

This is Lum, R,G,B filters, and also some Ha added to Lum and Red.  This is a total of about 3.5 hours imaging.    James Dire





Uwe Glahn:  Observer from Germany  

Objekt: Messier 8 “Lagunennebel”

Teleskop: 4″ Bino

Vergrößerung: 55x

Filter: [OIII]

Bedingungen: fst 6m5+

Seeing: III

Ort: Sudelfeld

M8 Uwe


 James Dire:  Observer from Illinois  (Telescope, camera, write-up later)







Finally a Decent Prominence by Guest Host: Mario Motta

June 10, 2020

Date: May 31, 2020

Telescope and imaging information:  

Coronada 90mm solar scope.  Two exposures, one 0.004 seconds for solar surface, second 0.01 seconds for prominence, as two different exposures are needed for this type of image.  Best of twenty images used for each, then stacked together for composition, mildly contrast enhanced only processing needed.   Mario Motta 

Dr. James Dire: Candidate For 2020 President of The Astronomical League. Jim is A visual Observer, and Astrophotographer, Has a PhD in Planetary Science, But “most Importantly” a Backyard Observer.

June 2, 2020

Yesterday, I received my (June 2020) Astronomical League “Reflector” Magazine.  

Most of us “long-time” amateurs have watched this magazine go from just a few pages to a very high-quality astronomy magazine, with “nice high-quality” slick paper.  A very nice feel when turning the pages, and looking at some beautiful amateur astronomy images.  An excellent magazine for sure!    

Purpose of this email:

James Dire, a friend and also longtime participant of the Observer’s Challenge, is in the running for president of the Astronomical League.  


Myself to the left, Jim Dire in the center, and Steve Davis on the right at a regional astronomy event.  

Jim and Sue French (former Contributing Editor to Sky & Telescope Magazine) have both supported the Observer’s Challenge, since its earliest days.  As of 2020, the challenge is entering its 12th year!

Note:  The Observer’s Challenge is the only monthly report (in the country and beyond) since February 2009, that allows any and all serious amateurs to share what they do best as an amateur.  Visual observing notes, pencil sketches and digital images.   

I’ve known “Jim” for more than 20 years, and have observed with him on occasion in years past.

Jim is both a visual observer and an expert astrophotographer.  

He has also been writing the “Deep-Sky” column for the “Reflector” since 2010, as well as being a regular contributor to “Astronomy Today” magazine.  

The following is a few excerpt’s from the June 2020 “Reflector” magazine by Dire:  

“After starting a paper route at age 12, one of my first purchases was a 60mm refractor….”

U of Missouri, Kansas City:   “….I can honestly say I learned more practical astronomy as a member of this astronomy club than in any of my undergraduate classes.”    

MS in physics, University of C Florida.

MA and PhD from John Hopkins University, both in planetary science.

It’s my opinion:  

We need more people in leadership roles in astronomy, and “astronomy publications” who started a paper route at 12 years of age…all for the purpose of purchasing a telescope.  It’s always been opinion, backyard observing is what amateur astronomy is all about.  

Roger Ivester