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.  

      DSCF5178 

      I became interested in astronomy in the mid-60’s at the age of twelve. One of my older brothers had purchased a 60mm EQ refractor.      

     I grew up in the foothills of North Carolina, in a very rural area.  It was a fabulous 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 southern horizon.     

     It wasn’t until the mid-70’s that I acquired my very own telescope, a 4 1/4-inch Edmund Newtonian EQ reflector.  This was not my first choice, as I really wanted the 6-inch Super Space Conquerer, but the 4 1/4-inch was the best my budget would allow at that time.    

     However, by this time the fabulous skies of my early years were gone.  I’d moved to an area packed with houses and street lights, but I made the best of the situation and continued to observe.     

     In 1985 a local astronomy club was formed and I became a member with my youngest son, Brad.  This got me back into astronomy after a five year hiatus.  It was Brad that wanted to join the astronomy club.  I’m glad he did.      

      In 1992 I became a much more serious observer, with a new 10-inch EQ Meade reflector.  And fortunately by this time, I was also living in a much darker area.  I began making pencil sketches, which really helped me to become a far better visual observer.  

     I am the co-founder of the Observer’s Challenge report, along with Fred Rayworth of Las Vegas.  The Observer’s Challenge is 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 challenge report will celebrate its 13th year in 2021.   All of the reports to-date are included in the following link. 

https://rogerivester.com/category/observers-challenge-reports-complete/

      In October 2018, Sue French, “Contributing Editor” for “Sky & Telescope Magazine” became the Observer’s Challenge special advisor, after many years as a participant.  Sue wrote the very popular monthly “Deep-Sky Wonders” column for twenty years.  As of November 2019, Sue has agreed to help compile and edit the challenge report.  

     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 (February 2016, Pages 54-57) and the Las Vegas Review Journal and other publications.

https://rogerivester.com/category/mount-potosi-observing-complex-in-southern-nevada/  

NGC 5474 – Galaxy in Ursa Major: June 2022 Observer’s Challenge Report #161

Posted June 22, 2022 by rogerivester
Categories: Work File Only - Observer's Challenge Reports

Work-File: Used only for organization and editing. When all entries are received (July 8th) a final and a .pdf report will be issued by the 10th of July, and at that time will be posted on this page.

James Dire: Observer from Illinois

NGC5474 is a peculiar dwarf galaxy in Ursa Major. The galaxy is 21 million light years away and shines at magnitude 11.3. The galaxy measures 4.8 x 4.3 arcminutes in size. William Herschel discovered NGC5474 in 1788 using his 18.7-inch Newtonian telescope.

NGC5474 is a satellite galaxy of M101. Although it is classified as a dwarf galaxy, NGC5474 still contains a few billion stars. It’s roughly comparable in size to the Small Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way. 

NGC5474 is peculiar in that it only has visible spiral structure on one side of the galactic core. The side facing M101 seems devoid of visible matter. The galaxy has undergone some intense gravitational distortion from interactions with the massive Pinwheel Galaxy.

I viewed NGC5474 with two telescopes this month. The first was an 8-inch, f/3.9 Newtonian with a coma corrector. Using a 26mm Televue Nagler Eyepeice (31x), I was able to see both M101 and NGC5474 at the same time. M101 has a very low surface brightness. But in my highly transparent dark skies, I was able to see the pinwheel structure of this galaxy. NGC5474 has comparable surface brightness to M101. Both are difficult to see under less than ideal conditions. I could make out the core of NGC5474, as well as a fan structure on one side of the galaxy. The core was very star-like, while the fan-shaped region was just a faint glow.

Next, I observed NGC5474 with a 10-inch, f/12 Cassegrain reflector using the same eyepiece (117x). The increased magnification spread out the faint light of the galaxy. But the greater surface area of the 10-inch telescope brought more light to the eyepiece. Thus I found the view in the Cassegrain to be very similar to that of the Newtonian. The fuzzy glow of this oddly shaped galaxy was just larger.

I photographed the M101 group, including NGC5474, using an Askar 72mm f/5.6 Qunituplet Apo with a 0.7x focal reducer to yield f/3.9 and a SBIG STF-8300C CCD camera. The exposure was 100 minutes using 10-minute subframes. NGC5474 appears to be the largest and brightest of the Pinwheel’s satellite galaxies. This imaged shows the level of detail I could see of NGC5474 in my telescopes.

I next imaged NGC5474 with an 8-inch f/8 Ritchey–Chrétien Cassegrain (with a Televue 0.8x focal reducer/field flattener yielding f/6.4) using an SBIG ST-4000XCM CCD camera. The exposure was 190 minutes again using 10-minute subframes. This image shows a very star-like bright core with spiral structure on the south side of the core. The brighter blotches in the spiral arms are massive regions of ongoing star formation.

NGC5474 is a challenging object to see visually. But it is impressive to see and image this celestial oddball!

Mario Motta: Observer from Massachusetts

NGC 5474, a distorted galaxy near M101. The following image this is 90 minutes of imaging Lum filter only.

Taken with my 32-inch f/6.5 telescope, with ZWO ASI6200 camera,  stacked and processed with pixinsight. This is a “dwarf spiral satellite galaxy” of M101, distorted with an off-set center, and spiral arms.

David Rust: Observer from Indiana

Larry McHenry: Observer from Pittsburgh

Galaxy NGC 5474 in Ursa Major:

The dwarf galaxy NGC 5474 is located in the circumpolar constellation of Ursa Major, known as “The Great Bear” and most commonly called the Big Dipper. It was discovered by William Herschel on the night of May 1st 1788 using his 20-Foot reflector (18.7-inch speculum metal mirror) at Slough. Herschel described the galaxy as “considerably bright, and large”.

The 11th magnitude galaxy is about 21 million light years distant, and spans a size of 4.8 x 4.3 arc seconds. While not listed in Arp’s Peculiar Galaxy catalog,  this galaxy does exhibit a distorted appearance, due to its interaction with the much larger, and nearby galaxy M101.

Video-Capture/EAA:  

Using EAA techniques, NGC 5474 displays nicely in medium-size optics. It is a fairly bright face-on spiral, with an elongated core, and several spiral arms arranged in parabolic arcs on the south side of the nucleus, with each arm containing knots of HII star-forming regions. 

05/30/2022: from Cherry Springs State Park, PA, using an 8-inch SCT optical tube @ f/6.3 on a GEM mount, with a CMOS color camera and broadband filter @ 180-second guided exposure, live-stacked for 30 minutes.  

Mike McCabe: Observer from Massachusetts

Well, I’m happy to report that after three tries – one with the 6-inch refractor and two with my 10-inch Newtonian. I can now say that I definitively saw NGC 5474! This was a tough little guy, and although I initially focused on high power examinations of the field and actually was successful in seeing the galaxy.

However, it worked best when using medium power as I had more background sky to work with. The galaxy was invisible at low powers due to the brighter field. But, it’s fitting that this little satellite neighbor of M101, should behave much the same as its bigger brethren due to the low surface brightness, which makes it a real challenge. 

This month’s challenge brought me back to September of 2018, when at that time the challenge object was the planetary nebula NGC 6818, which is very closely situated near NGC 6822, aka Barnard’s Galaxy.

In the same vein as Barnard’s Galaxy, NGC 5474 was seen but no significant detail could be discerned. Rather what was seen was nothing more than a very faint and fuzzy patch with no definable shape or structure. A dark sky would probably change this, but most of the time we work with what we have.

My sketch and summary as following from my photo file.

Phil Orbanes: Observer from Massachusetts

Attached is my photo of galaxy NGC 5474 (and nearby  M101).

I decided to do something different. Initially,  I took a wide field shot that includes both 5474 and its parent galaxy M101.

Recently, I took a close-up of NGC 5474. I included them both in the attached image.

NGC 5474 is the most notable of M101’s companion galaxies. It lies 21 million light years away. It it a “peculiar” galaxy because the gravitation interaction between the two galaxies has distorted the disc of 5474, causing its core to be far off-center, and its sitar-forming arms to be thrust to one side..

A total of 22 hours of imaging was made in 2018, 2020 and 2022. 

I used my 5-inch Takahashi refractor/FLI camera for the wide field image and my 14-inch Planewave reflector/ FLI camera for the close-up.

The total exposure time was divided evenly between R, G and B, Ha filters.

Rony De Laet: Observer from Belgium

NGC 5474 is an elusive object. At first only the core is visible, a dim smudge of light near a small mag 14.5 star. The core is brighter in the centre without a stellar nucleus. The core seems elongated in a SW to NE direction. An extended examination of the galaxy, reveals traces of its halo which is offset to the SW of the core. Brightening’s in the halo appear to connect to the elongated edges of the core, making the whole look like a deformed torus.

Site : Bekkevoort, Belgium (51° N)

Date : May 28, 2022
Time : around 23:30 UT

Telescope : Taurus 16-inch
EP: Morpheus 9mm 76°, 200x
Filter : none
Seeing : 4/5
Sky brightness : 20.1 magnitudes per square arc second near zenith (SQM reading).
Sketch Orientation: N up, W right.
Digital sketch made with Corel Paint Shop Pro X2, based on a raw pencil sketch.

John Bishop: Observer from Massachusetts

This month’s Challenge object is NGC 5474, a peculiar dwarf galaxy in Ursa Major.  It is relatively close to galaxy M101, and is thought to be distorted by gravitational interaction between the two galaxies.  Images of NGC 5474 would seem to support that view.  They show an unusual, face-on galaxy with some spiral structure, and a nucleus offset from the center of the disc    

This object was new to me.  I observed it twice for this report, first on May 21, and again on May 29, 2022, both times from the ATMoB Clubhouse in Westford, Massachusetts.  Observing was accomplished using an 8.25-inch f/11.5 Dall-Kirkham reflector at magnification of 48x to 192x, on a motor driven equatorial mount without go-to.  Skies were clear on both nights.  Contrast was fair to start, but then deteriorated, especially on May 21.

The entry for NGC 5474 in Luginbuhl and Skiff is one of the most meagre, uninviting descriptions in their entire Catalogue.  Citing only 10-inch and 12-inch telescope views, L&S describe NGC 5474 as “…diffuse, poorly concentrated, and without any distinct detail.”  Surely this neglected stepchild deserved some attention.

First, we would have to find it.  Starting at Mizar/Alkor, a string of four 5th and 6th magnitude stars lead to two faint pointer stars, directed just south of M101, which was a faint glow in the finder.  NGC 5474 lies less than a degree south of M101, just west of a line between M101 and an 8th magnitude star.

Seeing NGC 5474 required averted vision, and time spent on the FOV.  A slight brightening in the FOV built up to a faint glow, and then become a definite object, although still quite faint.  Unfortunately, Luginbuhl and Skiff were correct.  At least for this smaller aperture visual observer, NGC 5474 was a dim, nebulous  patch, with no obvious detail or structure.  My notes say, “faint, shapeless blob, no core or nucleus, more round than long, smaller than M101, but not small”.  It was especially helpful to have a polar aligned tracking mount when sharing the view with other observers.  I was able to hand off the eyepiece to others, confident that the object was centered, although it was not immediately visible to any observer.

M106 – Spiral Galaxy in Canes Venatici: May 2022 Observer’s Challenge Report #160

Posted June 12, 2022 by rogerivester
Categories: Work File Only - Observer's Challenge Reports

Becoming a Real Amateur Astronomer…

Posted May 18, 2022 by rogerivester
Categories: Roger's Articles

This is a photo of “my first” telescope (1977) which I was using that night, as described below. I no longer have the scope, but sold it many years ago to get a larger aperture telescope. My second scope was 6-inch Criterion RV-6, and from there about 15 other telescopes, to-date.

And to make it even more interesting…the telescope pictured below was made in my rented house at the time. It was built in 1927, had no insulation, and just about froze to death in the winters.  It was in the back yard of this old house, that I made my discovery of M81/82.  

I had just started working my first “real job” a year earlier, and my budget was tight.  And the reason, I was unable to purchase the Edmund 6-inch f/8 Super Space Conquerer, which was the telescope I really wanted.    

Fortunately, both my life and financial state did eventually improve, which allowed me to purchase more and more telescopes and equipment over the years to follow.

Having Lunch With Mario and Joyce Motta In Charlotte: Mario is Well known In The Astronomy Community For His Fabulous Deep-Sky Images. However, He Is Best Known For His Advocation Of Proper Outdoor Lighting, And Wrote The Official AMA Paper Concerning the Human Health Hazards Of Light Pollution.

Posted May 15, 2022 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

My wife Debbie, and I had lunch on Thursday (May 5th 2022) with Mario Motta and his wife, Joyce, from Massachusetts.  

Left to right: Mario and Joyce, and to the right, myself and Debbie….

Mario and I had communicated about three months earlier, concerning his presentation at an AMA meeting in Charlotte and a possible lunch meeting. (Mario is a cardiologist and trustee of the American Medical Association) and was scheduled to give a presentation at that meeting.

Charlotte is only about an hours drive from our home.

So, Deb and I picked out an “authentic” Italian restaurant (within walking distance of the Sheraton Hotel) to avoid Mario and his wife having to drive.  All worked out perfect, and I thought the food and wine were great! (The restaurant: Mama Ricotta’s @ 601 S. Kings Dr. Charlotte, NC)

Mario is also an amateur astronomer and has been for many years (as myself) and the following is a photo of his telescope and home observatory in Massachusetts.

An advocate of proper outdoor lighting: Mario wrote the official AMA article/paper concerning the negative “health hazards” on humans, but also wildlife and the entire ecosystem.

An example of his astronomy work: The “Famous” Horsehead Nebula. To see more of his extraordinary deep-sky images go to his site: https://www.mariomottamd.com/ 

Outdoor Street Lighting, Glare, and Circadian Rhythm Disturbance: human health and environmental effects.

It is now well established that lighting can effect both human health through circadian rhythm disturbance, and the environment though light pollution. I am happy to say that the AMA has had a beneficial and significant impact by two reports,  light pollution: adverse health effects of nighttime lighting (2012), detailing the adverse health effects on human health and the environment,  and Human and Environmental effects of Light Emitting Diode (LED) Community Lighting  (2016). this last report has led most cities in the US and across the globe to reject 4000K lighting in favor of 3000K lighting, and thus changed and averted major environmental damage. these are available for review and downloading with a number of scientifically published peer reviewed papers.

New: IES (Illuminating engineering society), now has changed its guidelines.  Their new  new Illuminating Engineering Society roadway and parking lot standards document: RP-8-18 has now come to be more consistent with AMA recommendations, which were published well before the IES changed its recommendations.

NEW: UN report on light pollution issues

Final UN report on light pollution and human health I was involved with has been submitted to the general assembly, hopefully this will lead to international cooperation, and.. The UN recommendations are consistent with AMA policy !!

Mario Motta, MD

NGC 5474 – Galaxy in Ursa Major: June 2022 Observer’s Challenge Report #161

Posted April 28, 2022 by rogerivester
Categories: Work File Only - Observer's Challenge Reports

Work-File: Used only for organization and editing. When all entries are received (July 8th) a final and a .pdf report will be issued by the 10th of July, and at that time will be posted on this page.

James Dire: Observer from Illinois

Date/LocationMarch 7, 2021 Jubilee College State Park, Illinois
Camera and SettingsSBIG STF-8300C CCD camera -20°C
TelescopeAskar 72mm f.5.6 Qunituplet Apo with a 0.7x focal reducer to yield f/3.9
MountCelesctron CGEM II
Exposure100 min (10 x10 min)
ProcessingCCDOpts, Image Plus 6.5, Photoshop CS6
OtherSpiral galaxy in constellation Coma Berenices; mag. 9.31, size 6.0 x 5.5 arcmin. Galaxies brighter than magnitude 14 labeled in the image.

Mario Motta: Observer from Massachusetts

NGC 5474, a distorted galaxy near M101. The following image this is 90 minutes of imaging Lum filter only.

Taken with my 32-inch f/6.5 telescope, with ZWO ASI6200 camera,  stacked and processed with pixinsight. This is a “dwarf spiral satellite galaxy” of M101, distorted with an off-set center, and spiral arms.

David Rust: Image Information later

The 1900 Total Solar Eclipse From Wadesboro, North Carolina, And Also A Transcribed Report Of The Attendance By The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina: All Information And Data Provided By Tom English.

Posted April 28, 2022 by rogerivester
Categories: Roger's Articles

Debbie Ivester and Nova Sophia “Sophie” standing beside the city limits sign of Wadesboro, North Carolina

Supplemental: The path of totality, also included other popular sites for research groups, including Pinehurst, North Carolina, as well as Newberry, South Carolina, among many others.

The following is a photo of the historic marker for the event in Pinehurst. Unfortunately, there is no such marker, or even the general area is not known where the various groups observed from in Wadesboro, at least to my knowledge. Roger

British Scientific Team at Wadesboro: Photo from the “NC Collection’s Photographic Archives”

The following information….again, provided by Tom English:

British Astronomical Association Eclipse Party at Wadesboro, NC, May 1900, courtesy NC Miscellany, UNC Libraries.

L-R:  Rev. John M. Bacon, Gertrude Bacon, Nevil Maskelyne, George Dixon, and three women, not specifically identified, but most certainly Miss E. K. Dixon, Mary Elizabeth Woolston, and Ada Mary Maskelyne, the magician’s wife. 

The BAA set up their station adjacent to the Princeton party led by Charles A. Young, at a site along what is now Brent Street in Wadesboro.  Maskelyne, a famous London magician, brought his kinematograph and used it to make the first successful movie of an eclipse – the device is in front of him in the photo. 

The Bacons had taken an earlier version of this camera to India in 1898 and used it to film that eclipse, but the film was stolen before it could be developed. John Mackenzie Bacon was a noted aerialist who once observed a the Leonid meteors from a balloon.  His daughter Gertrude was also an aeronautical pioneer and a writer. Her biography of her father, Record of an Aeronaut, includes an account of the Wadesboro trip.

George Dixon was an organ designer, and Miss Dixon is likely his sister.  There was one additional member of the BAA party not shown in the photo (perhaps he took the picture?) – David Hadden of Alta, Iowa, who joined them on eclipse day. 

Hadden was a pharmacist and a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society who contributed solar observations to thePublications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific and Popular Astronomy. The BAA account of the Wadesborough trip and the eclipse can be found in the official BAA report of the 1900 eclipse, compiled by Walter Maunder.

The US Naval Observatory Station at Pinehurst 

A. N. Skinner, Professor of Mathematics at USNO, spent 2 days in April 1900 in Southern Pines, NC, searching for an observing site.  He eventually selected Pinehurst, after James W. Tufts, of Boston, MA, who owned several hotels and cottages in Pinehurst, invited the USNO to set up their station there.  C. D. Benbow, the general manager of the Tufts properties, worked out the details.  The Lenox Hotel was kept open for the party.  (Pinehurst was a resort destination for northerners in 1900, but by May the “season” was over and the accommodations were closing down.)  Their observation site was 800 feet southeast of the Carolina Hotel which is still a popular Pinehurst resort. 

Skinner & USNO Assistant Astronomer Theo I. King arrived in Pinehurst on 3 May.  They sighted a meridian line that evening.  The next day they staked out a plan for the expedition site structures.  Their apparatus/instruments arrived on the 8th and the rest of their observing party shortly after, and the group got to work setting up their station, so that all was in order several days before the eclipse.  A temporary telegraph line was established on the 12th so that they could get noon time signals from the USNO.  Drills were conducted several times per day during the 3-4 days before the eclipse. 

The primary focus of the USNO observing plan was spectral studies of the chromosphere and corona, and large format imaging of the corona using a 40-ft focal length camera.  A similar 40-ft. instrument was set up at the Naval Observatory’s other station in Barnesville, GA.  In addition to a team of USNO staff, the station included observers from Johns Hopkins, Yale, the University of Wisconsin, and Cincinnati Observatory. Details about the observers and equipment for these stations (and others) can be found in the expedition reports

Nearby, in Southern Pines, a less technical eclipse party of observers from Carleton College (Northfield, MN) and Guilford College (Greensboro, NC) were stationed on the peach farm of Mr. John Van Lindley, a Guilford College Trustee.  H. C. Wilson, the assistant editor of Popular Astronomy, which was published out of Carleton, was the primary astronomer at this site, and his report of the expedition in the June issue was the first formal publication of results from the May 1900 eclipse.

Back to Wadesboro: Click on the following link…

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/241210537_The_Road_to_Wadesboro_Site_Selection_for_Expeditions_to_Observe_the_1900_Solar_Eclipse

Galaxy NGC 3079 – Ursa Major: April 2022 Observer’s Challenge Report #159

Posted April 5, 2022 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

Medusa Nebula – Abell 21 – Planetary Nebula in Gemini: March 2022 Observer’s Challenge Report #158

Posted February 27, 2022 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

The following Information taken from “Deep-Sky Wonders” by Sue French:

Sweeping 2 1/2º eastward brings us to the cluster NGC 2395. My little refractor at 87x reveals 20 stars loosely scattered across 15′. At 28x, it merely shows a granular-looking patch with two faint stars, but something remarkable happens when I add an oxygen III filter. Although completely invisible before, Abell 21, the Medusa Nebula, joins the scene 1/2º southeast of the cluster! I can see it with direct vision, but it shows up better with averted vision. This unusual planetary nebula is about 8′ across, dented in its northwest side, and brightest toward the northeast and southwest. With my 10-inch scope at 68x, I prefer viewing Abell 21 with a narrowband nebula filter (rather than the oxygen III filter) which shows this large, impressive detailed planetary to be very uneven in brightness. SF

MONTHLY OBSERVER’S CHALLENGE

Compiled by:

Roger Ivester, North Carolina

&

Sue French, New York

March 2022

Report #158

The Medusa Nebula, (Abell 21, PK 205+14 1, PN G205.1+14.2) 

Planetary Nebula in Gemini

Sharing Observations and Bringing Amateur Astronomers Together

Introduction:

This month’s target:

Abell 21 was discovered during the course of the Yerkes-McDonald survey of  symmetric galactic nebulae. The ensuing catalog was published by Hugh M. Johnson in the May 1955 issue of the Astrophysical Journal, in which it was given the designation YM 29. https://ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/#abs/1955ApJ…121..604J/abstract

The nebula was independently discovered by George O. Abell among globular clusters and planetary nebulae newly found on the National Geographic Society-Palomar Observatory Sky Survey. His paper was published in the August 1955 issue of the Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, which listed 13 globular clusters and 37 planetary nebulae.

https://ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/#abs/1955PASP…67..258A/abstract

Although the nebula is number 16 in Abell’s list of planetaries, it’s now commonly known as Abell 21. His well-known, updated list of  86 planetary nebulae was published in the Astrophysical Journal  in 1966, and since the nebulae are given in order of right ascension their numbers were changed accordingly.

https://ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/#abs/1966ApJ…144..259A/abstract

In his 1961 “A Description of Fifty Planetary Nebulae”  https://ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/#abs/1961AZh….38…75V/abstract, B. A.Vorontsov-Vel’Yaminov, credits the name Medusa Nebula to a 1961 entry in Astronomicheskij Tsirkulyar No.221 (1960), which unfortunately or mercifully, depending on your point of view, I do not have access to. Sue French

Bertrand Laville: Observer from France (pencil sketch)

Roger Ivester: Observer from North Carolina

Pencil sketch using a 10-inch f/4.5 equatorially mounted reflector

Abell 21 also known as the Medusa Nebula:  

After spending four nights and ten hours, with two different telescopes, and multiple eyepieces and filters:  I was finally able to “visually” see the Medusa Nebula.  For me…the euphoria of seeing an extremely faint deep-sky object after many nights and hours, can “or might be similar” to something physical, such as running a marathon, which I’ve never done, but I have competed in bicycle races.  

To be able to locate and “visually” see the Medusa Nebula, a very dark sky is most desirable, but which is something I don’t have from my suburban backyard. My best NELM seldom exceeds 5.0-5.2 on a superb winter night. But I’ve always tried to make-do, and thus far, been successful in seeing all of the challenge objects for the past almost 14 years, and now exceeds more than 200 deep-sky objects.  

The Medusa Nebula is the most difficult (visual) object featured to-date in the Observer’s Challenge report for the past almost fourteen years.  This might be proof that a dark site with a 6.0-7.0 NELM is not necessary to enjoy the wonders of the night sky. 

The Medusa Nebula:   

Easy for the imager, but extremely difficult for the “purist” back yard amateur astronomer, using an eyepiece, an O-III or UHC filters, a pencil, note and sketch pad.  

Amateur astronomy can be anything the amateur wants it to be.  But for me, I want it be “not too distant” from the nights, taking out a 60mm refractor, in what I called the “weedy-field” beside my childhood home.  I wanted to see some of those fabulous spiral galaxies (and in color) that I’d seen in my 6th grade science book.  Of course I never did, but without any support or guidance, I learned what was possible.  

I’ve never been disappointed in those very faint objects that are barely visible in the eyepiece, and requires hours or nights to finally see, but somehow “for me” those are my favorite.  Where in the solitude of the night, I might whisper to myself:  THAT’S IT !  

For those few that choose to carefully, and with patience, observe and sketch a deep-sky object, also supplementing with copious notes, they will never forget what that object looks like, and with instant recall. 

After 50 years of observing, I’m so glad I never lost my EP, my pencil, or my sketchpad, as I never had any desire to become an imager.  I also have a library with hundreds and hundreds of “one of a kind” pencil sketches, to review, and for future reference.   

If you’ve never attempted to make a pencil sketch, with supporting notes, you should consider.  And we need to keep the ancient art of visual observing and “pencil sketching” alive.  A skill or facet of amateur astronomy that fewer and fewer seem to be interested in these days.

After all, this was the original reason or concept for the founding of the Observer’s Challenge back in 2009.     Roger Ivester

Observing Omega Centauri And Centaurus A From North Carolina At +35º North Latitude

Posted February 19, 2022 by rogerivester
Categories: Roger's Articles

After years of wondering if I could see globular cluster (NGC 5139) Omega Centauri and galaxy (NGC 5128) Centaurus A from my home at a latitude of +35º 18′ so I gave it a try on April 26th 2009.  

My poor southern view required that I go to a dark-site on the southern rim of the South Mountains, only thirty minutes away.  I also met two other local amateurs at the site, with one bringing a 12-inch Newtonian, which was invaluable in seeing galaxy Centaurus A. The 12-inch also provided an excellent resolve of Omega Centauri, despite the telescope being almost parallel to the ground. 

Theoretical limiting horizon calculation from Western North Carolina at +35º North Latitude:

(90º-35º) = -55º theoretical limiting South Latitude. 

Omega Centauri South Latitude:  -47º 28′  

My limiting southern horizon @ -55º (-) -47º = Only 8º above my theoretical southern horizon, and again…which puts my telescope tube almost parallel to the ground!   I share the following of that night:

I made the following sketch on 4-26-09, using a 102mm f/10 refractor. The NELM was ~6.5 at the zenith and with a good view of the southern horizon. However, the excellent seeing overhead did not transfer to the extremely low southern view as expected, at only 8º’s about my limiting horizon. 

The sketch of Omega Centauri with the 102mm was made “during the observation” at the eyepiece, at a magnification of 42x, using a white charcoal pencil on black card stock. The globular appeared fairly dim, mostly round, well-defined edges, granular with some brighter members sparkling in the interior with averted vision.  I also noted many faint outliers enveloping the cluster. When observing with the 12-inch f/5 reflector, the cluster was “surprisingly” well resolved. 

Observing Centaurus A using a 12-inch Newtonian:

Despite observing at a dark-site, I was looking over many distant lights, and many layers of atmosphere which diminished the view significantly.  I “could not” see the galaxy with my 102mm refractor.

Observing Centaurus A with the 12-inch f/5 reflector…it was extremely difficult.  My notes read: Difficult! Appearing only as a small smudge with a stellar nucleus.  Regardless, of the poor view of Centaurus A, I was very happy to have been able to observe and sketch Omega Centauri and at least to be able to see Centaurus A from the foothills of North Carolina.  

Rough Field-Sketch as following made on 4-26-09 @ 1:00 AM EDT

Rough field sketch with 12-inch f/5 Newtonian from the same location and night:

James Dire Image from Barking Sands, Kauai, Hawaii

Stellarview 102mm f/6.3 refractor w/Teleview 0.8x focal reducer flattener

James Dire: 100mm Lens Canon DSLR Camera

Omega Centauri reports:

Fred Rayworth of Las Vegas, saw Omega Centauri from Cathedral Gorge, Utah @ +37º 49′ 20″

“I saw Omega Centauri just over the hood of a truck on the horizon. I had a chance to see it at Death Valley, California when we went to the airport, but never caught it.”

+90º North (-) +37º 50′ = (-) 52º 50 mins or limiting southern horizon

So:  -52º 50′ (-) -47º 28′ = ~ 5º 22 mins above the horizon from Cathedral Gorge.    

Larry McHenry: Observing from West Virginia

Globular cluster NGC 5139 – Omega Centauri

Location: Calhoun County Park in central West Virginia. Setup on a ridge of about 1100 ft in elevation. (more about Calhoun at: http://stellar-journ…calhounpark.htm 

At the time of observation, NGC 5139 had an elevation of about 3.5º

First a wide-field “finder” image of NGC 5139 (Omega Centauri) using my Canon 100mm video lens & ASI290MC camera. 

Here’s the main EAA observation of Omega Centauri, again thru the trees, from 4/28/22 at 12:28 AM.

(8-inch SCT @ f/6.3 on an Atlas German equatorial mount , ZWO ASI294MC camera with L-Pro filter, 20 second subs, no dark or flat frames, not guided, live-stacked using Sharpcap for 80 seconds). 

Due to the short exposure time, we were able to see the dark feature called the “Eye of Omega”, which is possibly a dark molecular cloud that is in front of the cluster in our line-of-sight. 
This is generally only seen visually, as most images are longer exposures to pull-out more of the cluster stars. 

The timing was really good for making this observation thru the trees, as the foliage was noticeably thicker a few days later as warm weather really brought on the leaves.

And an observation of galaxy NGC5128 – “Centaurus A” made about 20 minutes prior to the hunt for Omega. (same location as above)

With a higher elevation of 8 degrees, I was able to catch the galaxy sailing thru a clear gap between trees, before it too eventually dived back into the limbs.

(8-inch SCT @ f/6.3, ZWO ASI294MC camera with L-Pro filter, 3 minute subs, dark & flat calibration frames, PHD guided, live-stacked using Sharpcap for 15 minutes).

Overall, It was a successful observing trip!


The park is opening a new observing field on a different ridge that has clear sight-lines to the horizon (one ridge over). Omega should be “in the clear” from there!

Unfortunately, I’ll be at the Cherry Springs Star Party for the next New Moon, and my club’s observatory (ORAS) for June. Next trip to Calhoun wont be until July, so a better observation of Omega will have to wait for one more year.

Larry McHenry

The Deep-Sky From Florida By Guest Host: Mario Motta

Posted February 14, 2022 by rogerivester
Categories: Uncategorized

I was able to get my C-14 up and running in Naples, Florida, and the following are my images to-date.

The above image is my Naples, Florida setup. I work under a Bortle 5.5, which is not ideal and a full magnitude below my 4.5 skies in Gloucester, MA where my 32-inch scope is located.

I have an iOptron CEM 70g mount and pier-tripod, which has a level and a built in polar alignment scope. I find it invaluable for a quick polar alignment, when I set it down on a pre-marked location via a pad.

This mount is center-weighted, which is excellent for southern objects, and much better then a standard German equatorial, due to the weight of the scope “hanging off” the end of the polar axis at +26º North.

On this mount the polar axis is “centered” between two bearings…spreading the weight distribution well for southern locations, and It has excellent tracking.

As shown above:

My C-14 Edge has excellent optics, and I employ a focal reducer, so my work is at f/7 instead of f/11. 

I then have a filter wheel, with a Astrodon Light pollution L2P filter in place of standard Lum filter, which helps cut the LP down a bit. Then standard R,G,B astronomik filters, and finally astrodon 5 nm, Ha, S2 and O-III filters.

Finally, my standard camera is a ZWO ASI6200MM pro. I like this camera due to its very low dark current and excellent sensitivity, and wide field.

Piggybacked on this set-up is a Night Hawk 85mm f/6.5 refractor, which I primarily use in auto-guiding with a starlight express Ultrastar. On occasion I use this for a super-wide field image, such as the Vela supernova remnant image, as shown in the images below.

Finally…I have a Celestron dew control system, which is a necessity here in Florida. The humidity and dew-point can and most often is somewhat high.

After spending a night with a hairdryer removing dew every half hour, I recognized immediately that a dew-control system was not just a necessity, but a must!

Set-up time is about 50 minutes, with about 10 minutes to polar align after placing on the preset location.

A nice dark-sky would be great, but not…which indicates we need good light-pollution laws in every state.

In addition to my “Florida images” as posted by Roger Ivester, you can see a large set of my images (~700) at www.mariomottamd.com

So click on the top ribbon pane under astronomy to view my total images.

Enjoy….Mario Motta,

I plan on catching those deep south gems that are not available to me from my home, back in Massachusetts, and will be adding my latest and newest Florida images as following, as they occur.

If you can’t remember this link: Whatever search engine you are using, just type in “The Deep-Sky From Florida Mario Motta”

For the benefit of those that might want to follow Mario in his quest to observe deep-sky objects from Florida, I’ve included the following calculation for your use. Or you might just want to determine the deep-south objects that are available to you, which you might not thought were possible.

Calculation for Naples, Florida as following:

Theoretical limiting southern horizon calculation from Naples Florida at ~ +26º North Latitude:

(90º-26º) = -64º limiting south latitude, which opens up a vast number of deep-sky objects not available in the NE!

From my (+35º 15′ ) in North Carolina, my theoretical south latitude 90º (-) 35º = ~ -55º. Of course the terrain and light pollution can most often be the limiting factor for many in their limiting theoretical southern latitude. I can see the star Canopus, at a south declination of (-52º 42′) but in a distant tree-line. However, it shines brightly! Roger

Vela supernova with 90mm f/5.5 scope, use this scope only for piggyback guiding. ASI 071MC pro camera, and with optalon L-extreme filter. Two hours of 5 min subs, this is low in the sky, but with the filter able to image nearly to the horizon.

NGC 1097, in Fornax, 45 MLY away…a beautiful barred spiral

NGC 2467, in Puppis, the “skull and crossbones nebula.” This is NB imaging, mostly H alpha

NGC 4536, barred spiral in Virgo

NGC 5068, open spiral in Virgo

SH2-302 nebula, the “snowman nebula in Puppis. This is all H-alpha

Faint section of the Vela nebula…a supernova remnant

NGC 1365: Known as the Great Barred Spiral in the constellation of Fornax (Feb. 2022)

NGC 2736: The Pencil Nebula (a supernova remnant) in the constellation of Vela (Feb. 2022)

Sh2-301, a small diffuse nebula in Canis Major, can be imaged from Gloucester, but easier from down south. (Feb. 2022)

Globular Cluster NGC 1851 in the constellation of Columba (February 2022)

Centaurus A NGC 5128 in B&W (March 2022)

Centaurus A – NGC 5128 in color (March 2022)

The Famous Globular Cluster…Omega Centauri (March 2022)

Galaxy NGC 2997 in Antilla (March 2022)

Globular Cluster NGC 3201 in Vela (February 2022)

Galaxy NGC 4945 in Centaurus (March 2022)

NGC 6357 in Scorpio, an H alpha region of intense star formation. Taken with the C-14, and the ZWO ASI6200 camera, with H alpha, O3, and S2 filters, combined in PixInsight and processed. The star cluster embedded within the nebula contains some very massive stars, 10-100 solar masses among them. This nebula is also nicknamed the “lobster nebula” (Posted April 26th 2022)