Archive for the ‘Roger’s Articles’ category

The “Best” Comets in my generation – the War Babies: Growing Up, My Interest In Astronomy, Grinding Mirrors, Making Precision Lenses For The Military, Helping Others With Astronomy Projects: By Guest Host, Paul Valleli

February 3, 2023

By Paul Valleli in his own words:

[ The “Best” Comets in my generation – the War Babies.] 

I started my interest in Astronomy after reading an article in our Weekly Reader in the Second Grade. It was about exploring the solar system, mining asteroids, and spoke of lots of strangely named objects. I had no idea where to look to find these Planets, Asteroids, Star Systems. A school friend and neighbor introduced me to Sky & Telescope Magazine. It was published monthly in Cambridge at Harvard College Observatory. (HCO). That and a paperback handbook about “Stars” hooked me for good. I naturally gravitated to reading lots of SciFi stories which included plenty of good information about space travel, light speed, propulsion systems, social planning, etc.

My first year at Boston Technical High involved college courses, but mixed with lots of fun mechanics in the Woodworking shop,  Metal Working, Forging Iron, and working with lathes and other machine tools. The teacher/instructors began pouring on the Mathematics, its application to Science, and solving real world tasks and problems. The Science Club introduced me to other students with similar interests and the challenge of entering Science Fairs. I was a first award winner with my Astronomy and Telescope Making Projects.

My Dad made a call to Sibyl Chubb, Executive Administrator and Secretary at the Observatory. I was hired to work part time after school and during the Summer.  What a dream job! The Observatory had a very relaxed atmosphere so that one could ponder the most difficult mysteries of the Universe and consult with post-doc students and the staff of world class Astronomers. I also joined the Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston so that I could make telescopes that were beyond my very limited budget. Very Limited. 

In 1957, just before the appearance of Comet Myrkos, I enrolled at Northeastern University starting with the Liberal Arts program but then transferred to the Mechanical Engineering curriculum. I also had joined the Operation Moon watch Cambridge and on October 4th, the Russians showed that Science Fiction could become reality. I took a summer job at the ADJones Optical Works and found myself being asked to do research and experiments on the optical fabrication of Space Optics and Telescope Systems for HCO, NASA, and the Department of Defense. 

Several of the local optical companies were challenged to make the best optical systems in the world for Reconnaissance and Space Exploration. I worked on many of the Beryllium Ritchey -Chretien’s for Earth Resources Weather satellites, the 1 meter Orbiting Astronomical Observatories for Goddard Space Center, Viking Mars Scanners, Large Aluminum scanning telescopes for Earth Resources use on the Skylab Space Station alongside a cluster of Solar X-Ray Telescopes made for American Science and Engineering. During the Viet Nam era, we were called upon to fabricate state of the art Nine Element Spy Lenses for use on the SR-71 supersonic, very high altitude aircraft that required reaction jets to control attitude in the vacuum of the upper atmosphere.

The lenses systems each required three aspherical surfaces to eliminate residual spherical aberration over a wide field of view. We designed, built, and performance verified several experimental InfraRed Telescopes and one UltraViolet R-C for use on the Astro Mission for the Space Shuttle. 

As soon as we completed work on dual telescope transceivers to be used for Laser Rangefinders for Apollo Flights 15,16, and 17, we then were asked to consider how to fabricate six 20-inch IR Interferometer Telescopes for the Mariner Jupiter Saturn 1979 Grand Tour mission to explore the outer planets. 

Just before launch the program was renamed Voyager and VGER 1 and VGER 2 headed for a series of gravitational boosts that propelled them to the Oort Cloud and Interstellar Space.  

While my son was active in Boy Scouts we used to go on many of the camping trips in a caravan of several cars. It was a great opportunity to bring a scope along and show the boys the night sky. On the road, we communicated via CB radio to keep anyone from getting lost. Before long, I acquired the handle “Starman”. I think that’s the best description of my lifelong quest.  

Ad Astra – Paul Valleli  Feb. 2, 2023.

Comets I Remember From The Late 1950’s to 1980, By Paul Valleli

Roger, Mario and all:

There were several comets in the late 1950’s to 1980 that I would challenge as being more spectacular compared to Hale Bopp, Hyakutake and others that have been mentioned in previous emails.  

Comet Mrkos was in 1957 and I was 19 years old and making observations for Project Moon Watch at HCO. Comet Ikeya-Seki was a Sun-grazer and after perihelion had a early morning tail at least 60º’s long with the unaided eye!  We observed from the Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory, at about 550 feet. ASL  

Betty Milon got a fantastic shot of Comet West between the trees and made the cover of S&T. This was about 1962. My memory is now showing my age.  Dennis Milon, Mike Mattei, and I watched it using the 16-inch B&C Chester Cook Memorial Telescope before it was moved to the Smithsonian. Dennis recorded spiral emissions that showed it was rapidly rotating and saw changes in a one to two hour time period. 

I neglected to look at the nucleus at high magnification and did not notice the spiral emission.  

Comet Halley in 1966 was a dud for us in North America.  A 3rd magnitude in an observation from Cocoa Beach and lots of building lights at Patrick AFB spoiled the view…even in a 20 X 80 binocular. 

To me, those three comets easily outdid the current ones mentioned…being Hyautake and Hale-Bopp.  Many of us will not live long enough to see Halley again, but a few members of the Springfield Telescope Makers saw both the 1910 and 1986 apparitions.

Paul Valleli  (February 2023)

The Shortest Day Of The Year In The Northern Hemisphere Is The Winter Solstice: December 21st 2022. See My Humble Work, Measuring The Sun Shadow, As Following: Now See The Sun Shadow Getting Shorter: January 26th 2023

December 21, 2022

My oldest grandson needed a project for showing the altitude of the Sun, via the shadow. I made my simple solar device in my back yard, and my grandson, fabricated his device near Myrtle Beach. We compared views fairly often, and discussed our results. A fun project for the both of us.

I made the following photos today, at 12:00 noon (December 21st 2022) EST.

The (Blue Mark) represents the Sun Shadow (Today) at “precisely” 12:00 Noon EST, December 21st. At “almost” the end of the scale, which represents the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. A very long shadow for sure!

The (Green Mark) at the (inch-mark #9) was made on the the first day of Fall (September 22nd).

The (White Mark) at the (#2 inch-mark) represents the shadow on the first day of Summer (June 21st) and the longest day of 2022. A very short shadow! This would conclude that the sun is never “perfectly” overhead.

The scale on the ground is perfectly level, and facing North. The shadow post is at 90º.

Nova Sophia (Sophie) looks on with interest…

January 26th 2023 @ 12:00 PM EST: My first photo of the suns shadow which shows the shadow getting shorter.

See photos below: Note the longest shadow, the blue mark, which was made on the first day of Winter, the shortest day of the year.

During DST, the time to measure the shadow should be made at 1:00 PM. During EST, the shadow measurement should be made at 12:00 Noon.

My Sky Atlas’… But My Favorite Is The Smaller Version Of The Pocket Sky Atlas

December 21, 2022

Since the introduction of the “Pocket Sky Atlas” so many years ago, I have found without exception…this atlas has served me very well.

Easy to use in the dark, and I can use the larger or smaller version equally well. However, I mostly use the smaller edition. I have different ring(s) for each version and to match different finders.

However, as of recent, I’m using my GoTo mount most of the time. Being the purist amateur, never would I have thought after 40 plus years of observing, I would be using a GoTo mount….now most of the time.

No need for an atlas with the following mount. 🙂

The Highest “Official” Recorded Temperature In The World Was Set In Death Valley, California: July 10, 1913

November 24, 2022

My son and granddaughter make frequent trips from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, traveling through Baker, California, via I-15.

Baker is best known for having the tallest thermometer in the world at 134 feet, and considered the gateway to Death Valley.

The thermometer was built to commemorate the “official world” record setting temperature of 134º F, set in nearby Death Valley on July 10, 1913. A record that still stands to this day.

Brad and Zoe took the following photo of the thermometer during a trip on Tuesday, November 22, 2022. The temperature as shown on the thermometer at the time they were there….was a cold 30º F.

Surprising! It gets cold in the desert also!

Roger Ivester

IC 342: Galaxy In Camelopardalis, Difficult For The Visual Observer Without A Dark-Site

October 26, 2022

Mario Motta:  Observer from Massachusetts

This is a very difficult object visually, very faint surface brightness, due in-part to its large size and attenuation from outer spiral arms.The following image was made using my 32-inch f/6.5 telescope, with ASI 6200 camera. Total of 40 subs 5 minutes each,of Lum, R,G,B filters, and then 50 minutes of H alpha as well to bring out the surprisingly large number of H alpha regions you can see. Processing in Pixinsight, used especially modern processing techniques of Starnet 2, that allows “removing” foreground stars to enable processing the faint background, then adding the stars back in. (without this, nearly impossible to process properly).

Roger Ivester:  Observer from North Carolina

IC 342, is a faint galaxy in Camelopardalis, and can be very difficult for the visual observer, due in-part to the low surface brightness and large size, requiring a dark sky with excellent transparency.  

I made all observations with a 10-inch reflector from my moderately light-polluted suburban backyard.  On a 5.0 NELM night, I located and observed this galaxy rather easily.  A chain of six stars, with an orientation of NW-SE, lies a few minutes SW of the faint core. 

This galaxy is best observed with low to medium magnification.  I used 114x for the following pencil sketch. The 10-inch presented IC 342 as little more than a large faint glow without structure.  A faint and small core could be seen with averted vision, with the absence of visible detail being attributed to the lack of a dark site, which reduced the contrast significantly.  

On a night of lesser seeing and transparency, I was unable to see this galaxy with my 102mm refractor.

James Dire:  Observer from Illinois 

IC 342 is one of the most unique galaxies in the heavens due to its orientation, size and brightness. It’s a face-on spiral galaxy approximately 20 arc-minutes in diameter and glows at mag 9.67. Because of its size, brightness and orientation, it’s very hard to see visually. It spans only 1/3 the distance across as the face-on spiral M33 in the constellation Triangulum, which is 35 times brighter.  So M33 is easier to see in a telescope.  

IC 342 has about the same total luminosity as M100, a face-on spiral galaxy residing in Coma Berenices, however, since it spans three times the diameter as M100, but M100 is much easier to see visually. 

The only face-on spiral galaxy with the same angular size that comes to mind is M101 in Ursa Major.  However, M101 is 5 times brighter, so big light buckets reveal M101’s spiral arms with much greater ease. 

IC 342 lies in the northerly constellation Camelopardalis.  It is slightly southwest of the midpoint between two mag. 4.5 stars, Gamma Camelopardalis and BE Camelopardalis. The two stars are 5.75° apart

To see IC 342 in its splendor requires a long exposure with an astronomical camera. The galaxy is classified as a weakly barred and loosely wound spiral galaxy. 

The Hubble classification SABc. (S means spiral, AB means weekly barred, and c means loosely wound spiral arms). In barred spiral galaxies, the spiral arms usually originate at the ends of the bar. On IC 342, there appear to be two spiral arms originating from each end of the galactic bar. The arms tend to fan out as one traces them away from the bar. My image of IC 342 as following, was taken January 6, 2010 at the Wildwood Pines Observatory in Earl, NC. 

I used an SBIG ST-2000XCM CCD camera, operating at -20°C, attached to a 190mm (7.5-inch) f/5.3 Maksutov-Newtonian telescope. The exposure was 60 minutes.

Sue French:  Observer from New York

“Deep-Sky Wonders” P-15.

“….105mm scope at 28x, this pretty galaxy is a vaporous phantom spangled with faint stars.  It appears oval, its long dimension running north and south with a 12′.  From a dark-sky site with his 105mm refractor, noted observer Stephen  O’Meara has been able to trace out IC 342’s three main spiral arms.” 

The following pencil sketch was made using a 10-inch reflector at 88x.

Christian Luginbuhl and Brian Skiff: “Observing Handbook and Catalog of Deep-Sky Objects”

“….Large galaxy is relatively easy to see in small apertures at low powers. In 6 cm it is a faint blob north of a loose clustering of stars.”

“…25 cm a string of six stars runs SE-NW through where the object is seen in 6 cm.”

October: A Special Month, Cooler Days, Frosty Nights, Colorful Leaves, Jackets Or Coats, Perfect To Observe Old Friends With A Telescope.

October 14, 2022

October 1965 at 12 years old:

Shortly after sunset, I would notice a small cluster of stars rising above the tree tops in the east.  It would take me a while, but I did learn that it was the “Pleiades” or M45.

My first deep-sky object…”celestial objects beyond the solar system” such as galaxies, nebulae, and star clusters. This began my interest in astronomy, which I continue still today.

Just a little information, concerning my very first deep-sky object and a car company. Most all reading this are aware of this fact, but some possibly may not be.

In Japan, this cluster is known as “Subaru” which is the namesake of the car company.  The background of the Subaru emblem is most always blue, as to represent the “very hot” blue stars of the cluster.   

October 1967 and 55 years ago:  

I gave my first astronomy presentation to my 8th grade science class, using my brother’s 60mm equatorial refractor.  

The subject and title was:  “How To Use An Astronomical Telescope.” I was really a hit with my classmates, even if it only lasted for the remainder of the day. 

Such pleasant memories from October 1965 and October 1967.

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 owned two SC scopes over the years, but as for me, this design is not my favorite.  

However, the Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope is the choice of telescope for many amateurs, for their own personal reasons. I’d suggest mostly for portability, and astrophotography.

Newtonian Reflectors:

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 a 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 preferred 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.