Archive for the ‘Roger’s Articles’ category

Incredible and Remote Private Observatory in the Mountains of Western North Carolina

March 23, 2021

I have seen many private observatories over the past 40 years (plus) as an amateur astronomer, but nothing to the level of this one. It has bedrooms, a darkroom (for the days of film) kitchen, living room, bathrooms, without stairs, but with a “handicap” ramp to the observing room on the second floor. Even some stained glass windows.

It is so hidden on top of a mountain that “seemingly” few living near the facility were/are aware of its existence. Deb and I found this amazing.

The owner of the observatory might want to keep it private, so, my reason for not sharing more information as to the location, but it’s only a little more than an hour from our house.

Deb and I were invited to come for this visit by the owner. When leaving, we were told to come back at any time, but for some reason, we’ve not been able to find our way back. Maybe this year?

When we drove around the last curve going up the mountain and saw the observatory, we both thought it looked like a small castle which might be found in Scotland or England. You decide…

The following photos were made on April 25, 1993. Roger Ivester

In the following picture:

Note the photo propped against the wall behind Debbie, which was a very renowned and famous photo of one section of the Veil Nebula which (at that time, and in the days of film astrophotography) was considered extraordinary. The Veil Nebula is a supernova remnant.

September 2020 OBSERVERS CHALLENGE _Veil Nebula

A highly viewed and studied deep-sky object by both amateur and professional astronomers alike.

The supernova photo was taken using a 6.3-inch Takahashi reflector. The primary telescope in the dome is a 7-inch Astro-Physics refractor, as pictured below.


Virgo Diamond: Faint Five Star Asterism: Repost

March 6, 2021

The Virgo Diamond – Faint Five Star Asterism

April 3, 2012

     Have you ever heard of the Virgo Diamond?  No…I’m not talking about the large group of stars, comprised of Cor Caroli, Denobola, Spica, and Arcturus, also called the Virgo Diamond.  I’m talking about a basically unknown and very tiny asterism in Virgo which makes a beautiful diamond shape, comprised of five faint stars.  If conditions are not good this asterism can be difficult, especially the faint companion of the western-most star.   

     When I first read about the Virgo Diamond back in 1993, I became immediately interested, and could hardly wait to see it for myself.   The Virgo Diamond seems to be as unknown today as it was back in 1993.  I know of only a very few amateurs who have observed this most intriguing deep-sky object.

     If you’re interested in learning more about this fascinating object, please continue reading, and you too might want to test your observing skills in an attempt to see all five stars of the “Virgo Diamond.”  

Virgo Diamond: In the December 1, 1991 Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society , Noah Brosch (Tel Aviv University, Israel) discusses his investigation of a newly discovered asterism in Virgo.  Five stars all appearing brighter than 13th magnitude, comprise a diamond shaped area with sides only 42 arc seconds long.  The probability is small that five stars with similar brightness could be so closely aligned by chance, and Brosch suggests that the stars of the diamond are physically associated.  The diamond is located at:  RA: 12:32.8   Dec: -0.7

Direct Source:  Sky and Telescope Magazine, May 1993, page 110

     My first observation of the Virgo Diamond came on the night of April 14th 1993.  I was using a 10-inch f/4.5 reflector at 190x which presented a faint grouping of four stars.  I was unable to see the fifth star.  The stars range in brightness from 10.9 to 13.7 in magnitude.  Please don’t underestimate this very faint asterism.  If conditions are not good, even the four primary stars can be difficult.  

     Since that night in 1993, I have observed this object many times, however, always seeing only the four primary stars.  However, this changed on the night of April 12th 2012.  The conditions were excellent, and using a 10-inch reflector, I saw the illusive fifth star at a magnification of 266x.  I could not hold the fifth companion star constantly, and averted vision was required.  Exciting to say the least….after all of my attempts over the years to see the fifth star.  

     It should be noted that excellent seeing and high magnification are essential for observing all components of the Virgo Diamond.  

The northern most star is TYC 4948-53-1 (Magnitude 10.9) The brightest and easiest of the diamond.  (RA  12h33m18.96s   Dec.  -00.38m32.3s) 

The western star (the double) is magnitude 12.1

The southern star is magnitude 13.7

The eastern star is magnitude 13.5

Tom English of North Carolina, using a 16-inch SCT described a fabulous view of all five stars using 194x and 387x.

Fred Rayworth of Las Vegas could see the fifth star using a 16-inch Reflector at 130x, but could not hold the faint companion constantly, even from the desert southwest.  

Sue French of New York could see the faint companion using both a 130-mm apochromatic refractor and a 10-inch reflector.  

Jaakko Saloranta of Finland, using an 8-inch reflector, under less than ideal conditions managed to see the elusive fifth star, despite a focuser that kept freezing up under extreme cold conditions.

The following is a pencil sketch from that special night of April 12th 2012, using only a No. 2 pencil on a blank 5 x 8 note card.  The colors were inverted using a scanner. 

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The following image by James Dire of Hawaii.  “The image is a 20 second exposure.  Please note the streak below the diamond.  This is a geosynchronous satellite that I watched move from west to east across the field during multiple 20 second exposures.  I know it is a geosynchronous satellite because the Virgo Dimond is a few arch minutes below the celestial equator, the satellite was moving east with respect to the background stars, and the streak is 5 arc minutes long on the 20 second exposure.  Five arc minutes per 20 seconds translates to 360º (one orbit) in 24 hours.  This is my first geosynchronous satellite on an image.”  James Dire

Virgo Diamond 20s

The following image was taken by Don Olive of North Carolina from the Tzec Maun Observatory in Western Australia, using an Epsilon 180 mm corrected Newtonian.  

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I’m hopeful that you will attempt the Virgo Diamond, and if you do, I feel certain it will become a favorite springtime object for you also.  Remember, it’s a tiny asterism, with very faint stars, so a good night and high magnification is a must.  

Good luck in your quest to see the Virgo Diamond…and the fifth and most difficult component.  

Roger Ivester

Edmund Scientific of Years Past

March 6, 2021

rogerivester

Edmund Scientific was the company that really fueled my interest in amateur astronomy. From the following books (pictured below) to my first serious telescope, an Edmund 4.25-inch f/10 reflector.   It came with a 25mm eyepiece, which was called a 1-inch in the advertisements, and also an adjustable Barlow, to vary the magnifications. 

The year…1976:

This following photo of my Edmund reflector is especially important to me.  Not only a picture of my telescope, but also the living room of an old rented house which was built in 1927, and took a fortune to heat.  However, the rent was really cheap, so it was affordable.  I was just getting started with my working career, and most all of my money was required for the essentials of life.   

 This telescope allowed me to see many of the Messier objects to a level I’d never seen before.  And at that time…

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My Home Observatory Has Endured The Test of Time, But Is Now Improved. It Serves Multiple Purposes; One Being My Humble Observatory, a Sun Deck and for Blue Bird Watching

December 7, 2020

I started with just a deck, but over time, especially in the past couple years, I’ve tried to improve and make my observing site a bit darker, and I’ve been successful. At the zenith or overhead, on a real good and transparent night, I can reach a 5.5 NELM. Not too bad for a location inside the city limits of a small town.

And with no ambient light shinning into my eyes.

After a few revisions….

You might wonder why I’ve not built a dome or roll-off roof observatory, after being an amateur astronomy for almost 50 years. The reason. My back yard is not worthy of a permanent structure.

For 35 years, I’ve been using my back deck for the majority of my observing. My house blocks ambient light from the south, but I needed to improve my overhead and northern views. I can observe anything from ~+12º north latitude, anything more southerly, I have to leave my deck and find the darkest spot in my back yard.

On the west side of my deck, I use a couple large sheets of black auto/marine fabric, with a backing that makes light impossible to penetrate.

I just “clothes-pin” it to a nylon rope, and when my session is complete, it’s very easy to take down, fold up and put away. It is similar to heavy duty “old time” tent canvas. It’s very thick, and is perfect for my use.

So for the past couple of years, I’ve been slowly adding various light blocks:

A couple weeks ago I added a small section to my current wooden light block petition, which now needs to be stained. And also a new small shed to block light, and for storage.

In my larger shed, I store my CGE-Pro Celestron mount, which is much too heavy to take in and out of the house. This mount is really designed for a permanent observatory, and too heavy to set up for a night or two of observing. Most of the time, I use a lighter equatorial mount with my 10-inch. I also keep tools, counterweights, an astro-chair and other astronomy and non-astronomy equipment stored in this shed.

So, my point of this post: Despite street lights, or other lighting there are things you can do to improve your ability to observe, even from your back yard.

The Deer Lick Galaxy Group and Deerlick Gap Overlook, Little Switzerland, North Carolina

October 6, 2020

We had an incredibly beautiful day yesterday (October 5th, 2020) so Deb and I (and Sophie too) decided on a trip to Mount Mitchell (North Carolina) which is the highest peak, east of the Mississippi…@ 6,684 ft. 

When coming back down the mountain to eat dinner with friends (Mike & Rhonda and their Dachshund, Peta) in Little Switzerland, we stopped at the Deerlick Gap Overlook.  

I have always considered this a “very famous” location for amateur astronomers, and professionals alike.

The “Deer Lick Galaxy Cluster” in Pegasus:

Finally the “definitive” story of how the name came about:

It has nothing to do with the appearance of the galaxies, but from the location where they were observed from…on one special night, in the early 80’s by the late Tom Lorenzin.

So here is the story:

Friend and amateur astronomer (author of 1000+ The Amateur Astronomer’s Field Guide to Deep-Sky Observing) the late Tom Lorenzin was observing from this overlook, with a few others from the Charlotte Amateur Astronomers Club.  

Tom was observing galaxy NGC 7331 in Pegasus, and on that night of  exceptional seeing and transparency, he made the following notes, taken from 1000+ of a very faint galaxy cluster, to the east of NGC 7331. 

NGC 7331: 10.4M; 10′ x 2.5′ extent; bright and much elongated edge-on spiral with stellar nucleus; axis oriented NNW-SSE; the Deer Lick group, a very faint triangle of 14+M GALs (N7335,6,40) is a few minutes E and a little N; “STEPHAN’S QUINTET” (soft glow of five very faint and distant GAL’s) is 30′ due S; good supernova prospect

http://www.1000plus.com/

From this extraordinary night this galaxy cluster, observed from the “Deerlick Gap Overlook” and Tom coined the name “The Deer Lick group” which stuck, and is known by both professional and amateur astronomers throughout the country and the world, as such.

A wide-field snapshot (below) from wikisky.org of the “Deer Lick galaxy group” and Stephan’s Quintet (compact galaxy cluster) to the south, at the bottom.

The large galaxy is NGC 7331, and the “Deer Lick Group” of galaxies are the small and very faint, mostly round galaxies to the east, or to the left of NGC 7331. A difficult group, best suited for larger amateur telescopes.

On excellent nights (NELM 5.2) using my 10-inch reflector from my moderately light polluted back yard, I can see the brightest member of the group, NGC 7335, requiring averted vision, but cannot hold constantly.

Stephan’s Quintet, the compact galaxy cluster is shown in the opening of the 1946 Christmas classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life” so be looking for it this year.

The following image provided by Mario Motta from Massachusetts using a 32-inch telescope of NGC 7331 and the very faint “Deer Lick Galaxy Cluster” to the E. North is up in this photo and W is to the right.

Mount Mitchell, not too far from Deerlick Gap Overlook

Grave of Elisha Mitchell (1793-1857) Scientist and professor. Died in an attempt to prove this mountain was the highest in the eastern United States

https://www.ncdcr.gov/blog/2014/06/27/the-death-of-elisha-mitchell/

The Questar 3.5-Inch Telescope Story, Vernonscope/Brandon Eyepieces and a Meade ETX 90 Astro

April 25, 2020

     Questar Telescopes (Maksutov-Cassegrain) have been built in New Hope, Pennsylvania since 1950.  Questar has chosen Brandon eyepieces for many years, which are also made in the USA.   https://www.questar-corp.com/

     Brandon eyepieces are optimized for telescopes with a focal ratio of f/7 or greater.   https://043a19c.netsolhost.com/

     The following are some photographs of a friends 3.5-inch Duplex.    

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     During the early 50’s, Cave Optical in Long Beach, California, manufactured the 3.5-inch mirrors.

    Questar advertised on the back of the front cover page of “Sky & Telescope Magazine” for decades!

A challenge to Questar?   

     In 1996, Meade Instruments Corporation, introduced the Meade ETX 90mm Astro.  This telescope was designed to be an economy Questar.  Mostly constructed of plastic, but with all the emphasis on the optics.   

     At that time, Meade was manufacturing the ETX, as well as most all of their higher-end telescopes in Irvine, California.     

     I purchased an ETX 90 the following year (1997) for use as a very portable telescope, to observe deep-sky objects within its grasp.  It served that purpose well.  The telescope had very good optics and would easily exceed Dawes’ Limit on double stars on a night with good to excellent seeing. 

     Dawes Limit:  4.56/A (A is aperture in inches) for two equal stars of about 6th magnitude.   

https://www.astronomics.com/info-library/astronomical-terms/dawes-limit/                                                                                                                                                                                               

     However, when considering fit, finish, cosmetics and ease of use, the ETX “cannot” even remotely compare to the “much” more expensive and precision Questar.  

     The 3.5-inch Questar continues to have its place in astronomy, despite most amateurs of today wanting larger and larger telescopes, but how many telescope companies do you know that have been in business since 1950?

      And from their longtime advertisement in “S&T” the following was said:   “Questar, The World’s Finest, Most Versatile Telescope”

     This must be true, to have survived in the ever-changing world of amateur astronomy equipment for 70 years.  (1950 – 2020)  

      I wrote the following story back in (2012) and it still receives views, even to this day.    Roger Ivester

https://rogerivester.com/2012/02/02/questar-a-high-precision-3-5-inch-telescope/

Building a Hot Rod in November 1964: The Beatles Came to America in February of That Year, Cassius Clay Wins the Heavy-Weight Boxing Championship Over Sonny Liston. And I was Eleven Years Old…

January 15, 2020

Date:  November 1964  

     My five older brothers built something similar or akin to what might be called a Rat Rod today.  The origin was a 1951 Studebaker…using the frame, which had been shortened by three feet, the original engine and transmission.  

       In the following photos are my brother Jimmy, who was driving, I’m in the middle with the “cool” cowboy hat, and my brother, Phillip.

     My older brothers, Richard, Jimmy, Ronny, Donnie and Phillip, worked on fabricating “The Bug” as it was called.   I was a bit too young, and mostly just enjoyed watching.  Sometimes I would assist by handing them wrenches or anything else they might need.   

     Improvements were made over the next year with the installation of a mid-50’s Chrysler Hemi engine, which had much more horsepower than the Studebaker.     

     The sad looking tires, especially the front white-walls would eventually be changed out with some better looking wheels.  Additions would also be made to the body, however, still constructed of wood panels.  With a larger budget, many improvements could have been made, but….

     My brother, Donnie, being in high school drove the school bus in the background, which was an early 1950’s model Chevrolet.  

An astronomical telescope purchase in 1963:    

     It was my brother Jimmy, who had already purchased (at the time of the photo) a 60mm f/15 equatorially mounted refractor from Sears, at a cost of $100.  This would be the equivalent of $835 in 2019.  An expensive telescope for sure.

     Two years later, I would begin using this telescope to observe deep-sky objects (galaxies, nebulae and star clusters) and a lifelong interest in astronomy would follow, even to this day.

Roger Ivester   

The Beginning of a Hot Rod

The Beginning of a Hot Rod - 2

     

 

 Improved budget, greater skills and abilities, my brother Phillip would become a race car and engine builder.  He would also go on to win an incredible 164 drag racing events. with multiple drag cars.    

The following photo was made in September 2019:     

Race Car Wheeley

          

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The Three Types of Astronomical Deep-Sky Sketches Identified and Explained

January 5, 2020

rogerivester

      The following classifications of the various types of deep-sky sketches are solely my opinion only….   

                 Detailed visual telescope sketching:  Observing an object through a telescope via an eyepiece. Drawing the object on paper or a sketch card “as verbatim” as possible using a pencil, or pencils of various hardness or other.   

     I’m a visual back yard observer with more than forty years of experience.  All of my sketches are made using a pencil and a 5 x 8 blank note card with a 3-inch circle.  I do not use paints, colored pencils or in anyway attempt to embellish my sketches.  

     Impression sketching:  A sketch made at the eyepiece, using a pencil, charcoal, or chalk and representing what the observer mentally perceives, without a great degree of scale or detail. 

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Christmas Day Bicycle Ride – What a Great Day To Get Outside…

December 26, 2019

     Cloudy skies and rain have prevailed for the past few days, but what a nice day it was on Christmas Day to get outside.  While relaxing, shortly after lunch I received a message from Mike Ribadeneyra, wanting to take a bicycle ride.  I was actually thinking about a nap, but as a cyclist, when someone offers an opportunity to ride…the guilt can be a bit overwhelming should you decline, especially for no good reason. 

     So I got my cycling stuff on, and as always, it’s a great feeling of accomplishment when you are riding back in your driveway.  

     When coming home, we were able to stop and visit with “Albert” the donkey who loves to see us ride by, behind his pasture fence.   It’s always great to hear him coming to us with his bell jingling…wanting to see us.   

     Albert loves for me to bring him an apple, but he has to have it quartered, and he will chew each piece individually.   If a piece falls on the ground, he’ll not eat it until I pick it up and offer it to him again.  He’s a bit finicky, but very kind and seems to love attention.   

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Albert is glad to see Mike Ribadeneyra:   

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Supplemental photo:  Saturday, December 28th, after a ride, changing out of cycling stuff and taking Albert an apple.  He was very disappointed I didn’t have or offer him an apple, when we were riding home.  So….Debbie, and I took him one later.  

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Below:  Sophie (our Dachshund) is a bit jealous of me feeding Albert an apple, on another afternoon in (January).  Albert is always excited to see us, knowing we have him a treat!

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Below:  A day in February 2020

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The Importance of Taking Notes and Making Sketches For Future Reference

November 7, 2019

I wanted to share information concerning an observation I made on April 20, 1993.  It’s a testament that documenting and taking good notes is indeed a good thing!   

Forward to February 1994: 

While reviewing my logbook, I discovered that I’d not followed up on an object viewed on 20 April 1993.  The primary object was NGC 3893, an 11th magnitude galaxy in Ursa Major.  While making my sketch of this galaxy, I noticed a smaller, much fainter object, SE of NGC 3893.  

So, while browsing through my logbook, I saw my notes that said:  “follow up on this observation.”  However, it would be ten months later (February 1994) before going back and checking data.   

I checked Burnham’s Celestial Handbook, Tom Lorenzen’s 1000+, and the Tirion Sky Atlas 2000.0 only to find that none of these sources listed a companion galaxy.  I then went to the NGC-2000.0 Catalog by Roger Sinnott, and found the companion listed as NGC 3896, a very faint and small 14th magnitude galaxy.  

If I had not sketched NGC 3893, most likely I would have missed NGC 3896.  And, if I had not noted  the companion, I probably would never have checked any reference material.  

This might be a good story in favor of being sure to document your observations.  

Roger Ivester

A newer pencil sketch of the galaxy pair, made April 1st 2014 

My original pencil sketch from the night of April 20th, 1993, which spawned my  interest in this galaxy pair.