Archive for the ‘Roger’s Articles’ category

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.

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: By Tom English.

April 28, 2022

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.

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

February 19, 2022

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

Remembering Comet Hale-Bopp – March 1997 – Charcoal and Pencil Sketch

February 3, 2022

Twenty-five years, March 2022!   

Comet Hale-Bopp 
March 1997
10-Inch Reflector
Magnification: 160x
FOV: 0.38º 

White charcoal pencil sketch on black card stock.  The three tails are visible:  The anti-tail, the ion or gas tail and the dust tail are clearly visible.   Roger Ivester  (North Carolina)

 
Image

Unfortunately, the sketch is actually larger than our scanner can copy, so some of the comet is cut off.  The sketch was done on 4/2/1997.  The tail was about 15° long to the naked eye.  To get the tail and the core detail in the same sketch, I used three different instruments: 8×40 binox, a 90mm refractor, and a 6-inch reflector.   Sue French  (New York) 

   

image001

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We Were Fortunate To Have John Dobson Visit For a Couple or More Weeks During The Late 90’s

January 31, 2022

Myself (L) Tom English in the center, and Dobson. I can’t remember, but I think someone local knitted Dobson the funky hat, which he wore most all of the time during his visit.

We had a get-together and dinner at one of the local astronomy club members home.

Dobson and Tom English during a solar observing session. Best I remember, Dobson didn’t think it was a good idea to observe the sun with a solar filter.

A letter that Dobson wrote to my wife, after he returned to San Francisco. He wanted to tell her about a movie he had seen.

NGC 2264: The Christmas Tree Cluster and Cone Nebula

December 16, 2021

Last night I received a nice image from Mario Motta of NGC 2264, known as the Christmas Tree Cluster, and the associated Cone Nebula. (December 15, 2021)

I thought this to be the perfect time for a post of this object…being only nine days from Christmas Day.

I’m also including an image and write-up from James Dire.

Just this morning (December 20th) I received an incredible drawing from Bertrand Laville, using a 25-inch telescope.

And a pencil sketch from 2010, by myself for illustrative purposes, as to show how this object appears “visually” with a 10-inch reflector, from a 5.0 suburban back yard.

Image and notes from Mario Motta:

For the season, I’m sharing my image of the Christmas tree cluster in Monoceros. A large object so I used my 6-inch scope, to capture the entire field. The NGC 2264 image is as it appears in the sky in true color, the first image. But, the “tree” is upside down, so for clarity, I inverted the image, and took some liberty of “nudging” the color to make it more distinct for you to see.

Supplemental: I’m adding another image using my 32-inch. Mario

Image using 32-inch telescope:

Image and notes by James Dire:

NGC 2264 is usually the designation given for a star cluster in the constellation Monoceros (mono – one, ceros – horn; The Unicorn) which is embedded in a large nebula. The nebula spans approximately 1º of declination and 1/2º right ascension.

If north is up, the nebula is in the shape of an inverted cone or Christmas tree. Thus NGC 2264 is sometimes called the Cone Nebula or Christmas Tree Nebula. Near the south end of the nebula, or the apex of the cone, lies a dark nebula, also cone shaped, with the apex on the north end. This dark nebula is called the Dark Cone Nebula.

The actual star cluster is approximately 39 arc minutes in diameter. My image of the Cone Nebula is centered on the star cluster, and only captures about half of the bright nebula. This image was taken with a 190mm (7.5-inch) f/5.3 Maksutov-Newtonian Astrograph using an SBIG ST-2000XCM CCD camera.

It’s a composite of six 10-minute frames taken on February 23, 2009. I have captured roughly the bottom half (north side) of the Christmas Tree (remember it’s upside down). Jim Dire

Supplemental: More images from James Dire:

Roger,

I have attached a couple more images I took of NGC 2264.

One taken with a Stellarvue SV-102T 102mm f/8 Apo with a 0.8x focal reducer/field flattener to yield f/6.4. This was taken with Canon 30D digital camera. 60 minute exposure (6x10min). February 23, 2009 from, Earl, NC

The second taken with a William Optics 132mm f/7 refractor with a 0.8x focal reducer/field flattener yielding f/5.6. . This was taken with an SBIG ST-4000XCM CCD camera. 290 minute exposure (29x10min). Images taken on March 4 & 7, 2021 from Jubilee College State Park, Illinois.

Merry Christmas, Jim

Sketch by Roger Ivester:

10-inch reflector at 57x, and a 1.1º field. Some very faint nebulosity could be seen, at the southern tip, as shown, and without a filter, with a 5.0 NELM.

South is down, North is up, and West to the right.

Drawing by Bertrand Laville from France using a 25-inch telescope:

From “Deep-Sky Wonders” by Sue French:

“Dubbed the Christmas Tree Cluster by Leland S. Copeland, this striking cluster well deserves its nickname. I recall observing NGC 2264 long ago when I’d heard of the Christmas Tree but didn’t know to which cluster the name referred. One look through the eyepiece and I knew this must be it!”

“…I can imagine them fashioning a large five-pointed star crowning the tree. Since the tree hangs tip-south in the sky, it can sometimes be seen upright when viewed through a telescope that inverts the view…”

The Southern Cross by Commercial Airlines Pilot: James Yeager

March 29, 2021

Jim Yeager has always allowed me to use any of his aerial photos, which over the years have included, a beautiful photo of the Barringer Crater in New Mexico, covered with snow, and the Mount Potosi Observing Complex in SW Nevada. Both of which I’ve used in previous blog articles and other.

I really like the following image, as I’ve never seen the Southern Cross.

Jim’s notes and photo:

Here is somewhat of clear picture taken with an iPhone using a 3 second exposure on a descent out of 41,000 feet about 100 miles north of Lima, Peru.

You can see Alpha and Beta Centauri pointing to the Southern Cross.

The residual cockpit lights, moonlight behind us, and the haze of high altitude cirrus kept us from seeing the Magellanic Clouds.

Other aerial photos by Jim Yeager:

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

https://rogerivester.com/2016/12/06/aerial-view-of-meteor-crater-compliments-of-james-yeager-pilot-american-airlines/

Edmund Scientific of Years Past

March 6, 2021

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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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.

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.

Mount Mitchell, not too far from Deerlick Gap Overlook

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.    

DSCF5015

DSCF5012    

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

    Questar graced the back of the front cover 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 72 years.  (1950 – 2022)  

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