Archive for the ‘Roger’s Articles’ category

Incredible and Remote Private Observatory in Landrum, South 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 aware of its existence. Debbie and I found this amazing.

It’s only about an hours drive 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.


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

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.

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.    

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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

      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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What? Sand Dunes In The Northeastern Corner Of South Carolina, 50 Miles From The Atlantic Ocean! And Also Very Dark Skies…

August 14, 2018

While visiting family in Mullins, South Carolina over the past few years, I’ve discovered some fabulous dark-sky areas, perfect for the use of an astronomical telescope.  

Only a few miles outside the city limits, there are country roads, agriculture fields, and no houses or lights for miles and miles.  

Hopefully in future visits, I’ll be able to take one of my smaller telescopes, but unfortunately, like most locations on the east coast, during the summer months, cloudy skies seem to prevail.    

However, this trip yielded some beautiful skies, but on our first night we were too tired to attempt to see the Perseid meteor shower. 

The next morning….Tuesday August 14th 2018.  

When driving in a secluded area, via unfamiliar country roads, you never know what you may find:   

While riding around with my oldest grandson, who just got his learners permit, and I was sharing my wisdom, of how to be a safe driver.  During our  leisure drive, we found something very interesting:  

Sand dunes, and a very sandy area….at first resembling snow, all in the middle of a dense forest and surrounded by swamp land.  There were Bald Cypress trees growing out of the black murky water, Spanish moss hanging from the trees, and who knows, maybe even an alligator or two in that dark water!

Note:  This very remote small sandy area is a protected site.  I took some pictures as following, but somehow missed the eerie swamp.   

Roger 

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Stopped and using the car as a size reference, to a part of the protected site: 

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South Carolina Grandkids

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Debbie (Grammy) with granddaughter Gracie

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Couldn’t leave our Sophie behind!  She’s ready to go anytime we are! 

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

May 14, 2018

      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. 

     Impression sketching:  Want to know more about this type of sketching? 

     Pull out your copy of the “Messier Album” by John Mallas and Evered Kreimer.  Mallas does an excellent job with this type of sketching:  

     “The sketches were made on vellum-type drafting paper with a soft pencil, using finger smudging and erasing until the desired effects were achieved.”  John Mallas 

     Computer-enhanced sketching:  A sketch generated sketch using a computer, from “sometimes” a rough pencil sketch.  Being the purest visual observer,  this is not my favorite system.  From all computerized digital sketches I’ve seen, the sketch appears very similar to that an image via a camera, “and” normally as would be seen through a much larger telescope.  But amateur astronomy is changing, and I’m trying my best to accept those changes.  However, I must admit, change does not come easy for me…regardless of what it is.  Just a symptom of growing older, I suppose.   🙂  

     However, if you choose this type of sketching, please let it be known to your readers that it is a computer generated or assisted drawing, and not a “true” pencil sketch as seen through the eyepiece.   

     Examples of detailed visual telescope sketches, as following:  

     The following is a representation or an illustration of my sketches, using only a pencil, an eraser and a blank 5 x 8 notecard with the colors inverted via a computer or scanner.  

Rogers NGC-2371 Inverted

Rogers M-081 Inverted

Rogers M-082 Inverted

Gamma Virgo - Correct Position Angle

Rogers M-53a

Pacman Nebula - NGC 281

M13 And The Elusive Propeller

Scanned Image 161780000

rogers ngc-2175 inverted

Rogers NGC-2300 Inverted

Rogers NGC-2964 Invereted

Orion CT80 Refractor Review

April 4, 2018

Telescope:  Orion 80mm f/5 achromatic refractor.  Item #09202 

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     I’d been wanting a small economical refractor for visual observing.  A telescope that could be used for those quick observing sessions when time is limited, and also for terrestrial viewing.  A telescope which could easily be taken on trips, but taking up very little space. 

A Surprise!

My son surprised me with an Orion model CT80 f/5 refractor as a gift.

     This telescope is sold as an optical tube assembly, without accessories from Orion Telescopes and Binoculars.  However, no problem.  I have extra finders, an equatorial mount, an extra or two diagonals, and plenty of eyepieces and a tripod for terrestrial viewing.

     I was not wanting an expensive 70-80 mm apochromat, but an achromat, that was light and easy to take outside and bring back in.  

     The dovetail mount fits perfectly to my Vixen/Orion GP mount.  I purchased a three pound counterweight about ten years ago, apparently just waiting for this scope.   It balances the telescope perfectly. 

     A smaller and lighter duty equatorial mount would be sufficient for the CT80, but the Vixen GP makes for a rock steady mount for sure.  A good quality heavy duty tripod could also suffice for either astro or terrestrial viewing. 

     With the tripod legs folded together, I was able to hold and carry both the scope and mount with one arm, while opening and closing the door.  Everything was working perfect so far, but how would this little refractor perform on the night sky?

First Light:

     My first target was the beautiful double star, Castor, in Gemini.  I started with 33x, but this was not enough magnification.  With the employ of a 2.8x Barlow, giving a magnification of 93x, I was amazed.  Castor was cleanly separated, with beautiful airy disc rings surrounding both components.  

     My next object was the Trapezium in Orion.  The four primary components were crisp and clean even at 33x.  When increasing the magnification to 93x, it was a beautiful sight indeed.  

     The Orion Nebula appeared very bright with excellent contrast.  I was actually surprised at this view, which would only be possible with a telescope having very good anti-reflective coatings.   

What about galaxies?  

     M81 and M82, located in Ursa Major, have always been two of my favorite galaxies.  They were very easy to locate, both fitting nicely within the large 1.8º field of view at a 33x magnification.  Beautiful!  This took me back forty years, when I first observed this galaxy pair with a 4.25-inch Edmund Equatorial reflector. 

     I’d been outside for almost an hour which was my time allowance for this night.  

     Never would I take out my 10-inch equatorially mounted reflector, or my 102 mm refractor or 6-inch reflector, both also with EQ mounts for less than an hour.  This telescope had already proved its value and convenience as being light and compact, and also providing excellent views of brighter deep-sky objects.  

     The scope passed all test with flying colors.  I’m very impressed with my new telescope.   

Final:  A very portable and versatile telescope at an excellent price. 

Now for the next test:

     My wife has always had an interest in making some photos of the moon, Saturn and its rings, using her DSLR camera.  Stay tuned…..

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Roger Ivester