Archive for the ‘Roger’s Articles’ category

The 8-Inch “Orange Tube” Schmidt-Cassegrain f/10 Telescope, Founder Tom Johnson, And Other

September 26, 2022

I pulled the following photo of (Leonard Nimoy) “Spock” and his “Orange-Tube” 8-inch Celestron Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, from Phil Harrington’s vintage telescope advertisement post.

This is the telescope, that changed the world of amateur astronomy, with its introduction in 1970. 

Amateurs wanted a more compact and portable telescope, and the 8-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain f/10 fit the bill.  I’ve had two SC scopes over the years, but as for me, the SC scopes have never been my favorite.  

However, the SC design telescope is their design of choice for many amateurs. I’d suggest mostly for portability, and especially for astrophotographers.

It’s my opinion, a 10-inch equatorially mounted (solid tube) reflector, is the largest reflector that can/could be considered portable.  And that’s a stretch, as I have a very heavy 10-inch EQ reflector (solid tube) so this is based on my experience.  

However, this is not the case for a Dobsonian design, as many take 20 to 25-inch Newtonian’s, and sometimes “even” larger to star parties on a regular basis.  

My experience with a 20-inch Dobsonian: 

I’ll never forget being at star party near Blowing Rock/Boone, North Carolina, and climbing a “really” tall ladder, to observe through a 20-inch Dobsonian.  To make things worse there was a 15 mph wind, and “of course” in total darkness.  I couldn’t wait to get back on ground, and decided my 10-inch reflector was all I needed!  

I just never thought astronomy should be a hazardous hobby, even greater than road cycling!!!

I’ve always liked the simplicity of both a Newtonian and refractors:  

For me, growing up looking at big Cave Newtonian’s (advertisements) and other brands, with massive German design equatorial mounts, was what an astronomical telescope should look like.

We can never escape our early years, and thoughts.

Roger Ivester 

The following is an excerpt from Wikipedia, concerning Tom Johnson and Celestron telescopes. 

…..Johnson, who had a strong interest in amateur astronomy, originally created Celestron as the “Astro-Optical” division of Valor Electronics in 1960.[2][3] Around 1960, Johnson had been looking for a telescope which could be used by his two sons, but found no such child-friendly models on the market at the time.[2] Johnson built a new telescope, a 6-inch reflector telescope, by himself, in 1960.[2] He was visiting his brother in Costa Mesa, California when he came upon his nephew, Roger, trying to grind the 6 inch diameter lens he purchased from the clearance table at a local hobby shop. Roger was tired of the project and offered the lens-grinding kit to his uncle. Thomas Jasper took the kit home and after several days of hand grinding, he invented a machine that would grind the lens for him. Thus, by accepting the lens grinding kit from his nephew, Roger L. Johnson, “TJ” (as the family called him) created that first lens of many.

On July 28, 1962, he publicly unveiled a new invention, a portable 18+34-inch Cassegrain telescope, at the party held by the Los Angeles Astronomical Society on Mount Pinos.[3] The new transportable telescope proved so groundbreaking that Johnson’s invention was featured on the cover of a 1963 issue of Sky & Telescope.[3]

Johnson’s interest in telescopes soon became a full-fledged business.[2] Johnson’s new company, Celestron, which descended from the “Astro-Optical” division of Valor Electronics, soon began selling more sophisticated Schmidt–Cassegrain telescopes in models ranging from just 4 inches to 22 inches.[2] However, the Schmidt–Cassegrain telescope proved difficult to mass-produce because the models needed Schmidt corrector plate, an advanced aspheric lens, which could be hard to manufacture.[2] To solve this production problem, Johnson and the company’s engineers invented a new type of telescope, the Celestron 8, in 1970.[2] The Celestron 8 was more compact, affordable and easier to manufacture than traditional telescopes, like the Schmidt–Cassegrain.[2] Johnson’s new telescope proved very popular in the amateur astronomy and educational industries, allowing the hobby to rapidly expand and reach more consumers.[2]

Johnson sold Celestron in 1980.[2]

Fall: September 22nd, 2022 And Watching The Shadow As The Sun Begins Its Crossing Of The Celestial Equator, Heading South. The Cooling Of The Northern Hemisphere Will Soon Follow.

September 22, 2022

During the Vernal Equinox (March 20th 2022) my grandson, John-Winston and I constructed solar devices (from different locations) to watch the shadow of the sun with the changing of seasons.

It’s fun having a joint project with my oldest grandson, talking about the sun shadows, and watching the changes from week to week, and month to month.

See the following photos:

The yellow mark at the (9) was the suns shadow on the March 20th Vernal Equinox. Our first measurement.

The white mark on the (2) was placed on the first day of summer (June 21st)

The red mark was placed today, September 22nd at 1:00 PM EDT, or 12:00 Noon EDT. All marks were made at 1:00 PM EDT.

Note: The 12-inches of a metal tape measure is used for a reference only…when discussing, or communicating.

For contemplation:

If you are an amateur astronomer in any sense, which you are, or you’d not likely be reading this post, consider doing the same with a young person. And you will never know what will result from the seed “you might have planted” in the future.

You will “for sure” get more out of this project, than the student.

The shadow today as following:

While Observing Last Night, A Strange Thing Happened. Two Kids Walked Up In Their Halloween Costumes. Find Out What Happened.

September 21, 2022

Last night (September 20th, 2022) I was planning a brief observing session, primarily to view the faint open cluster, NGC 6791 in Lyra. It’s been almost ten years since observing this cluster the last time. However, just after getting my telescope ready, a couple of kids walked up “seemingly” dressed in their Halloween costumes. I thought it was a bit too early for Halloweenbut you know kids.

It was dark, so I really couldn’t see them, but invited them up on my deck. They didn’t say a word. I asked if they’d like to look through my telescope and both nodded their heads. One seemed to be very familiar with telescopes, and actually picked up a clip board and started sketching the Andromeda galaxy. The one wearing a white sheet…just looked on.

I went inside to get Debbie to come outside, to meet the pair, but when we returned, both were gone. How did they “get gone” so fast? Strange indeed….

I’m glad I took a photo of the kids, as otherwise, I might have thought I was hallucinating…possibly due to a very hard and hilly bicycle ride in 90º heat, only a few hours earlier.

Unfortunately, I was unable to observe open cluster NGC 6791, as the sky had become completely cloudy. And also, one of the kids took my small clipboard, extra 5 x 8 sketch pads, and also two pencils. You can see one of the pencils being held in the big ones mouth.

A strange night for sure, but one I’ll always remember.

I’ve always adhered to the following quote:

So, whoever shows up and wants to look through your telescope, even if they are dressed in a Halloween costume, a bit too early…let them!

The Messier Biathlon, As Reported In “The Messier Objects” By Stephen James O’Meara. The Following Is The Complete Story Of The 1996 Event. The Messier Objects By O’Meara Is An Excellent Book For All Amateur Astronomers, But Especially For The Astute Visual Observer, As A Reference.

September 19, 2022

The Following is a copy of the event from an October 1996 Newsletter, by my local astronomy club. Not a very good copy, but it is readable.

I received a nice email from Stephen earlier this morning, and he has been reading my emails, and blog postings. Thank you Stephen for your kind remarks.

A Simple, Cheap And Easy Way For The Suburban Back Yard Amateur To Observe, Despite That Neighbor’s Pesky Porch Light Or A Terrible Street Light. Interested?

September 15, 2022

I’ve been a humble visual observer for more than forty years, and have never owned or had a permanent observatory.

Why? My back yard has never been worthy of the investment, so I have to observe from different locations in the yard, based on the location of the deep-sky object.

Example: Any object with a south latitude, requires that load up my telescope and supporting equipment and drive to a dark site. However, in recent years I do this very seldom. I just don’t like all of the effort required, loading and driving to a remote dark-site, all by myself and beyond cell phone range.

So, for those more southern objects, I take my telescope and equipment out into the back yard, but often have a neighbor that will leave their back porch light on. And, also there is a distant street light that shines into the corner of my eye. Such an annoyance…

Last month, I had problems locating and seeing the Observer’s Challenge object, which was planetary nebula, NGC 6772…but finally was successful, but without a good view due to ambient light.

It took me extra time to observe, sketch and make notes of NGC 6772, so I was not able to observe, the September challenge object, planetary nebula, NGC 6751, also in Aquila.

However, for all deep-sky objects greater than -02º S latitude, I can observe from my back deck, using my GoTo mount, which is great, and without having a problem with lights.

I just don’t know why, I’ve let this mount, a Celestron CGE-Pro Mount sit in the corner of my living room for at least eight years. I have panels and light blocks built on my deck, so lights are not a problem. And it’s so easy to move the mount only 10 feet, and bolt down via inserts in the deck.

I’ve increased the number of support posts under the deck, to insure there are no vibrations while observing. I have a custom stainless steel base for the Pro mount with wheels and large levelers, but at a weight of almost 200 pounds. This base in now in storage, as it’s no longer needed.

My new location for storing the above equatorial mount: A Rubbermaid plastic storage building, located on my back deck, and only feet away from the deck inserts.

Back to my back yard, and my “easy” to make, and set-up…light block panel.

I was not going to deal with that “pesky” street light which “almost” ruined my observations of NGC 6772, so I did the following, and taking less than 30 minutes to construct. And today, I’ll take it down…maybe taking less than 10 minutes.

Materials required:

Two 8-foot metal fence poles, from Lowe’s Home Improvement Center.

25 feet of HD nylon, and two plastic tent pegs, also from Lowe’s…also a few wooden clothes pins.

At one time I was associated with a company that manufactured marine fabrics. A Very heavy black woven cloth, with a backing. No light can shine through this fabric!

So, last night I was successful in “easily” locating, and seeing the planetary nebula NGC 6751 , also making a decent sketch and notes, which “again” is the September Observer’s Challenge object.

So easy!

This is the medium duty mount, I use when observing with my 10-inch reflector, from the back yard. It’s heavy, but not that heavy.

So, if you are a suburban observer, and have trouble with “pesky” lights…give the portable light block a try. Roger Ivester

Organizing My Pencil Sketches And Notes, However, It’s Taking Much More Time Than I Thought.

September 14, 2022

Several months ago, it occurred to me that I needed a more organized system of filing my pencil sketches and notes. I was just filing my 5 x 8 sketches in plastic boxes, without having a directory, and having to look through hundreds of sketches to find the one I might be looking for. I have spent about sixteen hours to-date, and with many more hours to go.

I am using a laminator, lamination plastic, a paper cutter, plastic page protectors, and plenty of 3-inch loose leaf notebooks. When finished, there will be a directory in front of each notebook, then a master list to find the notebook needed, and then the page number.

This is a preliminary post, and I will be adding more information when the task is finished. At this point, I have five complete notebooks. I have all of my sketches digitized for the past fifteen years, but nothing like a “hard-copy.”

Four books now completed, with the fifth, just beginning. There is no way, I can laminate all of my sketches, and notes, as they are in different formats, journals, and too many small 3 x 5 cards to count.

Maybe a thousand or more small note cards ( 3 x 5) filed in plastic boxes, by constellation. So they are just fine, and easy to locate…the object I might be looking for.

The following are the books to-date with Debbie’s hand holding.

Bill Burgess Owner of “Burgess Optical” Passes Away: A Real Loss To The Amateur Astronomy Community. Bill Will Be Especially Missed By His Many Personal Astronomy Friends.

September 10, 2022

William Charles Burgess, age 59, of Knoxville, Tennessee passed away on Thursday, May 26, 2022. William was born October 17, 1962.

I did not know that Bill Burgess, owner of “Burgess Optical” had passed away.  Anytime I’d see Bill at an astronomy convention, he’s always have a bag of “prototype” astronomy equipment.  

He’d say: “Hey, Roger, I got something to show you…and you’ll like.”  And most of the time he was right.  

It might be a 2-inch format O-III filter for $30 bucks…which I bought, or some great 70º AF eyepieces for only $10 each, and with 20mm’s of eye relief.  He also seemed to have some short focal length APO refractors, and 6-inch reflectors designed for imaging…also at great prices. 

I’d call him for some equipment, and if he was in his office, he’d always answer his phone.  Always, saying: Let me send (whatever it was) try it out, and send me a check if you like it.  

I’ve always liked to support business’ like “Burgess Optical” similar to “University Optics” of the past.  

I really liked Bill, and it seems that too many of my astronomy friends are passing away “especially as of recent times”…and many far too soon. 

Roger Ivester

Tom English provided some great photos of Bill as following during a past TriStar event in Greensboro, NC.

NGC 253 – Galaxy In Sculptor: It’s Far South -25º South Declination Deters Many Amateurs From Observing. However, It’s Possible To Be Observed From Anywhere in The Continental US.

September 9, 2022

Richard Nugent and Bruce Berger saw the galaxy from Maine at +45º N latitude.

Pencil Sketch as following by Bertrand Laville from France, using a 25-inch Reflector:

Image by Mario Motta:

The data was collected in 2019, counting the number of subs, I have 70 min both Blue, and red filters, and 60 minutes Lum Filter. Green filter was only 40 minutes, likely it began to set in the west too low and could not get more.

This was taken with my 32-inch scope from Gloucester MA, with a ZWO ASI6200 camera.

Processed in Pixinsight

Image by James Dire:

Date/LocationNovember 15, 2009 Wildwood Pines Observatory, Earl, NC
Camera and SettingsSBIG ST-2000XCM CCD Camera -10°C
TelescopeOrion 190mm Maksutov-Newtonian f/5.3
MountParallax HD150
Exposure60 minutes (6 x 10 min)
ProcessingCCDOpts, Image Plus 3.0, Photoshop
OtherMag. 7.1 spiral galaxy in Sculptor. 26.9 x 4.6 arc minutes.

Pencil Sketch by Roger Ivester from North Carolina:

14.5-inch reflector at 125x, from a local dark-site in North Carolina at +35º N latitude on October 22nd 1995. I made the following sketch using a white charcoal pencil on black card stock.

South is up, and East is to the right.

Pencil Sketch by Sue French from New York at +43º N latitude:

10-inch reflector at 68x

Mark Helton observer from Massachusetts at +42º N latitude:

Stellarview 102T-Raptor with a ZWO533MCPRO with no filter, 180 seconds, processed via Photoshop.

Anas Sawallha: Observer from Jordan using a 5-inch reflector -2021:

Galaxy NGC 6118 In Serpens Caput: Many Consider To Be The Most Difficult Object in The Entire Herschel 400 List

August 3, 2022

Many amateurs consider NGC 6118 (also known as the Blinking Galaxy) to be the most difficult object in the Herschel 400 list.  I remember first reading about this galaxy, in the AL “Reflector Magazine” almost 30 years ago: “Tales of The Unknown Astronomer.” 

The article concerned an amateur who was just beginning to work on the list, and “as bad luck would have it” chose NGC 6118 as his first object, and was unsuccessful, after many attempts.  

He consulted with other amateurs, and was told that NGC 6118 was an extremely difficult object….and probably the most difficult of all in the 400 list.   


Now this is all all from memory, but I think I’m pretty accurate, but don’t remember if he ever found the galaxy, or not. (?) 

There is a lot of information online by many amateurs…sharing their successes and failures with this galaxy.

Just so happened, I was working on the H-400 list at that time (1994) when reading the article, and had not attempted this galaxy. I had completed about 250 of the objects, in this list, but that was all my back yard would allow, due to light pollution and a very poor southern view.  To this day, that’s where my Herschel 400 list remains and probably not to return.  

However, I do have NGC 6118 on my list of objects for 2023, due to the difficulty factor, and willing to travel to one of my dark sites.

What got me thinking about this galaxy again?  

In the September 2022 Astronomy Magazine, Stephen James O’Meara writes about NGC 6118 in his “Secret Sky” column. Titled “A Deep-Sky Devil” and a sub-title of “The spiral galaxy NGC 6118 is fiendishly difficult to find” P-60. 

An excellent article and I also learned what a devil is on a ship!  And No…you can’t just throw him overboard!  Find out who the devil is!  Read this article today! 

Noted amateur astronomer, and renowned astrophotographer Mario Motta, shared the following image using a 32-inch telescope.

You were recently discussing NGC 6118. So, I was to able to make this image last night (August 29, 2022) with the 32-inch, 1 hour worth of 5 minute exposures stacked.”

Mario Motta

The following image is a quick phone-shot using 

Roger Ivester 

Visual Observational Notes:

In 25 cm this galaxy is a faint, uncondensed patch 3′.5 NNW of a mag. 11.5 star. The irregular halo extends to about 4′ x 2′, elongated NE-SW. A very faint star is just off the SE flank, 1’5 E of the center. 30 cm shows the low surface brightness halo to 3′ x 1.8 in pa 60º. The surface is slightly mottled, but there is no general brightening toward the center.

Source: Observing Handbook and Catalogue of Deep-Sky Objects by Christian B. Luginbuhl and Brian A. Skiff

12.2M; 4.5′ x 2′ extent; large, very soft slash, axis oriented NE-SW, very little brighter center; TOUGH!

Source: 1000+ The Amateur Astronomer’s Field Guide to Deep Sky Observing by Tom Lorenzin

Looking through my logbook, I see that I observed this one with my 11-inch Dob at the Connecticut Star Party in Ashford, CT in September 2012. I was living in Hamden, CT at the time, which was considerably more light-polluted than the CSP site. I doubt if I could have seen it from Hamden at all, as I would have been looking South towards New Haven.

I noted it as “A very faint object”. There was a bright star in the field, and next to it three others that made a “parabolic dish” shape that pointed roughly to 6118 at the “focus”. There was also a field star of roughly equal brightness next to 6118, and I was surely seeing mostly just its nucleus.

Derek Lowe

The following observational notes: From the original “Observe The Herschel Objects” Ancient City Astronomy Club (First printed in 1980; Second printing 1992) by Brenda and Dave Branchett, Fr. Lucian J. Kemble, O.F.M

Published by the Astronomical League:

Magnitude estimated 11.5, spiral galaxy in Serpens Caput, 4.3′ x 1.3′ in size, very elusive and tagged “Blinking Galaxy,” use averted vision, faint and fairly large, situated near a 6th magnitude field star, located 2º west of SIGMA Serpentis. (6-inch Cass.)

Visual notes by Sue French as following:

Becoming a Real Amateur Astronomer…

May 18, 2022

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.