Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

“Celestial Harvest” The Book: By Guest Host, James Mullaney

May 18, 2020

CELESTIAL HARVEST:  HOW IT HAPPENED

When I first become a budding stargazer at age 14 and anxious to see everything in the sky, I consulted a number of supposed “showpiece” lists – and soon became disappointed and frustrated.  Many were obviously compiled based on photographs and not visual impressions, including objects like the Horsehead Nebula.  So I decided to survey the entire sky visible from my home (back then) in Pittsburgh.  I wrote to my idol Walter Scott Houston (Scotty) and told him of my plan.  He kindly replied saying he was afraid this was an impossible project in aesthetics – but then, characteristically, said “Go for it!”

As a result, nearly 50 years later and over 20,000 hours spent at the eyepieces of many dozens of telescopes of every size, type, and make from 2-inches to 13-inches (Allegheny Observatory’s famed 13-inch Fitz-Clark refractor) in aperture, in 1998 I self-published Celestial Harvest: 300-Plus Showpieces of the Heavens for Telescope Viewing & Contemplation (later reprinted by Dover Publications in 2002).   Thus, my lifelong labor-of-love came to be born!

James Mullaney

A Brief “Astrobiography” of Gus E. Johnson

December 7, 2019

      I became acquainted with Gus Johnson almost ten years ago, and as time passed, we became good friends.  Shortly afterwards, he became a regular contributor to the Observer’s Challenge report.  

     Gus has never used a computer, so it has always been necessary for me to call him via telephone, to receive his observation notes each month.   However, this has never been a problem for me, as I have always enjoyed our conversations over the years.  

     In 2018, Gus sent me his autobiography that he had typed himself.  Yes, Gus still uses a typewriter.  It was my plan to turn his “typewritten” story into a Word document, and then post on my blog site.  However, I could never seem to get started.  So in November 2019, I put out an email, asking if anyone would be interested in helping me tell the story of Gus Johnson “in his own words”.

       A few weeks passed, and I received an email from Nina Craven of Massachusetts.  Nina offered to convert the typewritten notes by Gus into a Word document. And she did a fabulous job!  Both of us decided that his story should indeed be in his own words.  Thank you Nina for your work!    

       My wife, Debbie is my in-house editor, and also anytime I need advice on the best word to use, she seems to always come through.  Debbie did a quick edit of the autobiography, but made only a few minor changes.  Again, trying to keep the story as close to the original as possible.

     Many of you may not know who Gus Johnson is, or his accomplishments and contribution to the world of astronomy.    Roger Ivester 

 

The following information is from wikipedia:  

SN 1979C was a supernova about 50 million light-years away in Messier 100, a spiral galaxy in the constellation Coma Berenices. The Type II supernovawas discovered April 19, 1979 by Gus Johnson, a school teacher and amateur astronomer.[2] This type of supernova is known as a core collapse and is the result of the internal collapse and violent explosion of a large star. A star must have at least 9 times the mass of the Sun in order to undergo this type of collapse.[3] The star that resulted in this supernova was estimated to be in the range of 20 solar masses.[1]

On November 15, 2010 NASA announced that evidence of a black hole had been detected as a remnant of the supernova explosion. Scientists led by Dr. Dan Patnaude from the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, MA evaluated data gathered between 1995 and 2007 from several space based observatories. NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, the Swift Gamma-Ray Burst Mission, as well as the European Space Agency‘s XMM-Newton, and Germany’s ROSAT all participated in the examination.[4]

The researchers observed a steady source of X-rays and determined that it was likely that this was material being fed into the object either from the supernova or a binary companion. However, an alternative explanation would be that the X-ray emissions could be from the pulsar wind nebula from a rapidly spinning pulsar, similar to the one in the center of the Crab Nebula.[4] These two ideas account for several types of known X-ray sources. In the case of black holes the material that falls into the black hole emits the X-rays and not the black hole itself. Gas is heated by the fall into the strong gravitational field.

SN 1979C has also been studied in the radio frequency spectrum. A light curve study was performed between 1985 and 1990 using the Very Large Array radio telescope in New Mexico.[5]

More information from Chandra:  

https://chandra.harvard.edu/chronicle/0410/sn1979c/

 

A BRIEF “ASTROBIOGRAPHY” OF GUS E. JOHNSON

     In late 1938 I was born, and lived in Vanergrift, Pennsylvania, which is short, about 40 miles north-east of Pittsburgh.  We lived on the bluff overlooking the Kiski River and the Pennsylvania Railroad;  trains soon became a big interest of mine that continues to the present, especially steam-powered trains.

     From I know not where I acquired an interest in classical music, which also is still a big interest after 68 years.  I learned to play violin and organ, though not very well.

     One clear starry night I recall, when living on that bluff, but to no avail, as my parents knew next to nothing about stars (or music).  The news media reported a bright comet, but I didn’t see it.  It scared me.  I wasn’t keeping notes then so that comet’s name is gone from me.

     In 8th grade, at the Lincoln School in Vandergrift, I chanced upon an article in the classroom encyclopedia, about Mars, with an artist’s version of what Mars looked like as seen from one of its moons.  I think that is what sparked my interest in astronomy.  I read many books on the subject, well, not really many since school libraries had few on astronomy.  Somehow I learned of “Sky and Telescope” magazine.  I still have my first issue , for January 1954, and nearly every issue since then.  Some 1200 issues take a lot of space, and other magazines I have saved in great numbers.  My house is badly a-clutter! 

     Around 1953 I got my first telescope, a hand-held 8 x 30 spyglass.  The optics were good, but hand-held, it was of little use astronomically.  About 1954 I was in high school, where I found that I knew more about astronomy than my general science teacher (9th grade).  She loaned me a larger telescope, of 15x to 40x, but hand-held.  Soon I bought a similar telescope and tried to mount it using a very flimsy music stand, so by the time vibrations died down the object under observation often had drifted out of the field, so I tried some other contrived mounts.  I got a few observations with it like of Venus and Mizar and the moon.  Saturn’s rings were visible, though tiny.

     My father passed away in 1951, and then my mother in 1961.  In 1954 she remarried and we then moved to Castle Shannon, a suburb of Pittsburgh.  I attended a high school in Mt. Lebanon, about 2 miles away, where there was a pretty fair library and more astronomy books.  The librarian acquainted me with the autobiography of John A. Brashear, which I have read numerous times, he being an excellent telescope builder and astronomer at Allegheny Observatory.  His book is a joy to read.  He, as a beginner who worked at a steel mill, had built himself a 5-in. refractor and a 12-in. f/10 reflector.  

     I was inspired to get a real astronomical telescope, and seeing an ad in “Sky and Telescope” I got a 3 ½ in. Skyscope, base priced at $30.  It had ¼ wave optics, and that was adequate to give fairly good views, at 35x and 60x.  A 2.4-in. f/15 Unitron refractor followed, then a Cave 6- in. f/7.8 Newtonian, which really did wonderfully on deep sky and high resolution planetary observing.  Suburban skies were light polluted but sometimes I could use high powers.  My stepfather had a cabin in the woods at Deep Creek Lake, in western Maryland, where skies were fairly dark.  Many trees obstructed the horizons, except to the north and northeast.

     My father’s name was Gus E. Johnson like myself.  My mother’s was Maryon.  My stepfather was Floyd Crouch; he passed away in 1957, as I wrote, my mother passed away in 1961, after which I moved from the Pittsburgh suburb to Deep Creek Lake.  I now have an 8-in. f/6 Orion reflector and a very handy 4 ¼-in. f/7 reflector from Three B Optics, from Mars, PA (They advertised “Mirrors from Mars”) and their optics were very good.  Alas, as with Cave, no longer in business.  Three B’s head optician was Bill Herdman.

     With so many surrounding trees I didn’t get very many observations.  One memorable observation was made, perhaps my only sighting of M51’s spiral arms was from that home.  I remember once carrying (no vehicle) my 55 lb. 6-in. at least a quarter mile so I could see into Scorpius.  I’d get set up on the road then a car would come with its bright lights and I’d have to move the telescope. I think I made that ordeal only once.  When I observe I like to have a writing desk beside the telescope, and along that road I couldn’t have that.

     In around 1973 I got married.  The house was too small so we moved around 24 miles away to Aurora, W.VA. to a sort of  “farmette”, a couple acres, but with good sky access.  My wife didn’t like me out observing, much discord, and a divorce came, a costly one; then I couldn’t afford a good house, so I got this rather dumpy one back near Deep Creek Lake.  It has some NW sky then a fairly low horizon NE through SW.  I can’t quite see Omega Centauri, but just up over the hill it can be seem dimly.  Gamma Velorum can be resolved from that site too, with a 40mm Unitron finder at 12x.  From my home site I can reach Theta Eridani, resolving with a 2.4-in. at 21x.  Those three are my most southern objects.

     More regular observing came with my joining the American Association of Variable Star Observers (the AAVSO).  Besides observing long period variables, like Mira, I observed some galaxies, looking for supernovae, though probably not too seriously at first.  On April 18, 1979 I invited the pastor of my church to join me observing, for he had an interest in astronomy.  I took him on a “tour” of the Coma-Virgo Galaxy Cluster with my 8-in. and Leland Copeland’s “Coma-Virgo Land” chart from the Feb. 1955 “Sky & Telescope”.  The pastor’s name is David Long, now a missionary in Botswana.  Anyway, when we looked at M100 (NGC 4321) I noticed a little star, about mag.11 near the galaxy’s edge.  I kept it in mind and later checked a Palomar photo and the star was not there so I phoned the AAVSO and they put out an alert.  By the next day, April 19,1979 it was confirmed, by L. Rosino of Asiago Astrophysical Observatory and R. Kirschner, of the University of Michigan, reported that McGraw-Hill Observatory got its spectrum.

     It was reported to be the third time ever that a supernova was discovered by telescope direct vision, rather than photographically.  The SN was no longer visible by 1980, but I read that it was by infra-red and/or radio telescopes.  I thank GOD for my noticing the SN.  Between mag. 10 and 11 are around a half million stars, and I couldn’t have memorized more than a “handful”. 

     At the autumn meeting of the AAVSO I was awarded a handsome plaque.  Some notable observers were also at that meeting: Canadian astronomers Rolf Meier, discoverer of numerous comets, and Warren Morrison, who discovered Nova Cygni with only a 2.4-in. refractor (probably a Unitron). Decades passed and I watched more galaxies just in case. 

     One interesting observation was made on Feb. 19, 1983.  I was looking for Omicron 2 Eridani (40 ERI) and where I expected to find what normally looks like a wide unequal pair, I saw a nearly equal double aligned apx. E-W, puzzling me. I didn’t become aware of what I had until too late.  The dim star is a pair of white and red dwarf stars, the latter occasionally erupting; it was flaring!  And I didn’t make any timings!

     In autumn of 2010 the Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory scientists, using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory satellite discovered x-rays coming from the site of my supernova, which suggested that the SN had left a black hole behind. 

     All of a sudden I was getting calls from newspapers and the HSAO scientists, and a television interview was made.  The “Washington Post” newspaper wrote “…Gus Johnson talks about his black hole discovery 31 years ago.”  NOT quite correct; I found the supernova but NOT the black hole.  Dated Nov. 29, 2010.

     I have done little observing lately, due to my observing eye having a cataract, which I hope to have fixed this spring 2018.

     Like most amateurs I had “aperture fever” but am getting over it.  For over 60 years I wanted a 12-in. telescope, but feel now that it would be too heavy to lug around as long as I live here, where light pollution is increasing.  A good small telescope on a steady mount can give many wonderful evenings.  Just to get a rare clear night is a blessing.  My 4¼-in. at 38x can see mag. 12 stars and even my short 2.4-in. at 25x can see mag. 11.3 (and once reached mag. 13.0 at 86x).  And there are about 1,000 galaxies in range of my 8-in.

     Big automated observatories are putting visual observers “out of business”, yet I feel there are small opportunities for us to find a new nova or maybe even a comet.  Don’t give up.  It is fun trying.       

Gus Johnson

March 7, 2018 

SkyShed POD Personal Observatory: By Guest Host, James Dire

August 19, 2019

Hi All,

Had a productive day at the observatory yesterday. Got the Sky Shed POD anchored to the concrete and installed all of the equipment. After dark, did the polar alignment and a mount model.  All is ready to start imaging!

The anchor bolt in the photo goes 3 inches into the concrete.  The telescope is an 8-inch Ritchey-Chretien. I’m using an 0.8x Focal Reducer/Field Flattner with the CCD camera which yields an f/6.4 system with a 1300mm focal length.

The camera is an SBIG ST-2000XCM. Controlling everything with The SkyX Pro and imaging with MaximDL.

I’ll probably swap cameras occasional with an SBOIG STF-8300c and swap telescopes with my 5.2-inch f/7 refractor.

Jim

 

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AMA Light Pollution Study Concerning Highway Safety and The Heath Hazards: By Guest Host, Mario Motta, MD, FACC

April 16, 2019

     I have been a light pollution advocate for many years. Certainly 30 years ago I was most interested in the skyglow that affects our view of the starry sky, and though that remains a major concern, I have since learned of the many medical, safety, and environmental concerns that are paramount. On an energy committee on my town, I was able to show that poorly lit intersections with severe glare by unshielded lighting had the highest accident rate.  

      Further review of published studies has shown that as the eye ages, it becomes much more sensitive to disability glare, impairing safe driving. That led to my 2009 AMA resolution that suggested that all streetlights be properly shielded to prevent such glare to make streets safer, allowing elderly to drive in the evening safer. This resolution is still cited by lighting companies.

     In 2012 knowing the research activities of many scientists in the world on the effects of night time lighting on human physiology, I invited 4 prominent researchers to help me write a CSAPH report “Light Pollution: Adverse health effects of Nighttime lighting”.

     This 27 page report with 134 peer reviewed references highlighted the adverse health effects of circadian rhythm disturbance. Suppressing melatonin production by excessive night lighting, especially blue light, leads to myriad health deleterious health effects. 

      The most stunning is an increase in certain endocrine related carcinomas. It is now well known that circadian disturbance causes a 15-20% increase in breast cancer rates, and a similar increase in prostrate cancers. Indeed, this past year (2017) the Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to Young, Rosbach, and Hall, the groundbreaking research that elucidated the biochemical pathways that lead to increased illnesses by melatonin suppression. Cancer rates, obesity, diabetes, metabolism issues, and immune system are all affected by melatonin suppression. The World health organization has even listed shift workers, who have repeated melatonin suppression as a “known Carcinogen, level 2”. 

      After the 2012 report came out there was some pushback from the lighting industry, however, in 2014 General Electric wrote its own “white paper” on this subject, and not only agreed with the AMA report, by liberally quoted from my report, stating that corporate policy would change to take note of melatonin production in its lighting policies and products. Shortly after that Apple developed a blue reduction in its phones and computers for late night. Many other companies have since adopted this practice. Again, with the Nobel Prize, and over 1000 peer reviewed papers, this now settled science! The last section of the 2012 report also raised the alarm that excessive outdoor blue light was also causing environmental harm, as all living creatures have a circadian rhythm, even one celled organisms!

      In the ensuing years the lighting industry has developed LED lighting with plans to replace all outdoor lighting with LED’s over the next 10 years, but were poised to use excessive blue producing 4000K LEDs. Given my 2012 paper, and many reports of environmental damage by excessive blue, I was able to move the CSAPH to let me lead on one more report “Human and Environmental  Effects of Light Emitting Diode (LED) Community Lighting” adopted at the AMA annual 2016 meeting by the HOD. This particular report hit a nerve with the lighting industry. The report actually says however that we should indeed replace outdoor lighting with LED lights to save energy, but still shield all streetlights to prevent glare, that was widely accepted. The last resolve stating that blue light should be limited in outdoor lighting and streetlights should use low blue emitting 3000K or lower color temperature led to severe consternation in the lighting industry. 

     The issue was many companies were trying to sell 4000K lighting, as those were the first type of LED’s that were manufactured. They had inventory already made. LED lights use a blue LED and coat it to absorb the blue and re-emit at lower “warmer” color temperature, eg 3000K. 4000K lighting is 30-34% blue light. The 2012 paper and thousands of studies have already shown this is bad for humans and the environment in general.  The AMA report suggested no higher than 3000K. Nowadays, there is good 2700K lighting, and even 2400K lighting as well, and the trend is lower. There is evidence that high blue leads to severe insect, bird, and mammalian effects in nature. It has even been shown to affect salmon runs, and even plankton!

     When this AMA report came out it was hailed by researchers, and many cities paused to study it closely. They came to the same conclusion, and demanded warmer 3000k or even 2700K lighting. Many companies changed their products and are now thriving, others are still fighting.  

     To date most large cities now have adopted the AMA recommendation, and in fact some (like Toronto) state in their lighting that they are “AMA Compliant Lighting” !! To date, New York, Chicago, Tucson, Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Georgia, Toronto, Montreal, and many others have changed their lighting plans and demand 3000K or lower. This is helped by the fact that wherever 4000K lighting was installed, citizens immediately complained about the harsh glare bluish light.

     Some cities such as Monterey and Davis in California even sued their cities, and demanded a switch to 3000K or lower. Just a few weeks ago (March 2019), the city of Seattle, an early user of 4000K lighting, announced that all 4000K lighting which was recently installed, will be removed and replaced by 3000K lighting due to multiple citizen complaints. 

     Any town contemplating installing LED lighting should take note of the fact that essentially everywhere 4000K and excessive lighting has been installed, they are universally detested and abhorred. Don’t make an expensive mistake and install this type of lighting.

      The 2016 report has in the words of many lighting engineers “revolutionized” the lighting industry. This would not have occurred without the AMA putting this report out there forcing lighting companies to address the human health and environmental effects of the lighting they produce. This would not have happened without our AMA report.

Mario Motta, MD, FACC  

https://www.mariomottamd.com/

 

 

Improving My Backyard Deck Into a Better Observatory, a Nice Comfortable Nook For Debbie and I. The New Privacy Fence and Storage Shed Shields Ambient Lighting When Using My Telescope.

April 12, 2019

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Back side close up: 

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New Shed for deck storage:

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Deck before renovation, modifications, and additions.  

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Now back to my privacy fence:   

The majority of my astronomical telescopic observing, for the past 35 years has been from my backyard deck.  It received a major renovation and enlargement about 15 years ago.  My NELM from this deck is normally about 5.0-5.2 on an excellent night.  On a cold and crisp winter night on occasion, the NELM can reach 5.5 at the zenith.  

For at least the past five or more years, I’d thought about adding a bit of privacy for both my observing and when my wife and I choose to just sit, relax, and talk.  

During the day, I can use my computer to write astronomy articles, emails to my many astronomy friends across the country and beyond. I can work on the Observer’s Challenge report, which just celebrated 123 consecutive months, as of April 2019.  

The Observer’s Challenge report is an international amateur astronomers report, which allows any and all serious amateurs the opportunity to share their observations…being notes, pencil sketches or images, of a predetermined  deep-sky object each and every month.  I co-founded this with the Las Vegas resident, Fred Rayworth of the Las Vegas Astronomical Society.  

Back to the privacy fence:   

The fence blocks the sun until late morning, and with Debbie’s new outdoor umbrella, we can enjoy it….should we choose.  The other day, it became a bit too warm, so we now have a fan that works extremely well.  So much breeze, that paper weights are necessary for books and related.  

On selected nights, when it’s clear and without a moon, I can use one of my many telescopes to observe deep-sky objects, galaxies, nebulae, and star clusters from this suburban deck.    

I also like to make eyepiece/telescope pencil sketches.  An example as following:  A few sketches of faint and distant galaxies.   

Rogers NGC-2300 Inverted

Rogers NGC-2964 Invereted

Rogers NGC-4236 Inverted b

Roger Ivester

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fabulous Death Valley Photo Capturing a Dust Devil by Kerri Adams of North Carolina – February 2019

February 25, 2019

My cousin, Kerri Adams visited Death Valley California, and Red Rock Canyon, Nevada just last week, February 2019.  I picked one of her many photos to share.   

The following is my favorite, as it represents a rare moment in time for this camera shot to come together.  
 
Now we all know what a dust devil but….https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dust_devil
 

Roger Ivester    

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Famous Astronomer Quotes: By Guest Host James Mullaney; Astronomy Writer, Author, and Lecturer

February 18, 2019

“But let’s forget the astrophysics and simply enjoy the spectacle.”  Scotty Houston

“The celestial actors are in place, a serene majesty washes over the stage, and I can almost hear the music of galactic trumpets in their opening bar.” – Scotty Houston (anticipating his death that happened shortly after he wrote this??)

“One gentle dose of starlight to be taken each night just before retiring.” – Leslie Peltier

“Whatever happened to what amateur astronomers really care about – simply enjoying the beauty of the night sky?” – Mark Hladik

“Nobody sits out in the cold dome any more – we’re getting further and further away from the sky all the time.  You just sit in the control room and watch monitors.” Charles Kowal (Palomar Observatory)

“The study of the heavens from a purely aesthetic point of view is scorned in this technological age.” – James Muriden

“To me, telescope viewing is primarily an aesthetic experience.” Terry Dickinson

“The serene art of visual observing.” – Lee Cain

“I would rather freeze and fight off mosquitoes than play astronomy on a computer.” – Ben Funk

“The high-tech devices pervading the market are ruining the spirit of the real meaning of recreational astronomy.” – Jorge Cerritos

“To me, astronomy means learning about the universe by looking at it.” – Daniel Weedman

“All galaxies deserve to be stared at for a full 15 minutes.” – Michael Covington

“Every tint that blooms in the flowers of Summer flames out in the stars at night.” J.D. Steele (ref. especially to double stars)

“I became an astronomer not to access the facts about the sky but to see and feel its majesty.” – David Levy

“The feeling of being alone in the universe on a starlit night, cruising on wings of polished glass, flitting in seconds from a point millions of miles away to  billions of light years distant is euphoric.” Tom Lorenzin

“…the fun of sight-seeing, the sheer joy of firsthand acquaintance with incredibly wonderful and beautiful things.” – Robert Burnham

“To me, telescope viewing is primarily an aesthetic experience.” Terry Dickinson

“Spend your nights getting intoxicated with photons!” – Telescope Advertisement

“Time spent with 2-billion-year-old photons is potent stuff.” – Peter Lord

“I am because I observe. ” Thaddeus Banachiewicz

“The views are so incredibly fantastic!” – Jack Newton

“When you’re in the observer’s cage of the 200-inch…it’s romantic, beautiful, marvelous.” – Jesse Greenstein (Palomar Observatory)

“Observing all seems so natural, so real, so obvious.  How could it possibly be any other way?” Jerry Spevak

“A night under the stars rewards the bug bites, the cloudy skies, the next-day fuzzies, and the thousands of frustrations with priceless moments of sublime beauty.” – Richard Berry

“And there’s always that special pleasure  in knowing that, when you look upon that distant light, it has traveled all those lightyears – such an incredible journey – just for you.” – Ken Fulton

“Gazing into the beginning of everything, we are young once again. ” Ron Evans

“But it is to be hoped that [someone] will carry out the author’s idea and study the whole visible heavens from what might be termed a picturesque point of view.” – T.W. Webb

“This book is an effort to rescue the ancient love of simple stargazing from the avalanche of mathematics and physics under which modern astronomy threatens to bury it.” – Henry Neely

“But are silent worship and contemplation the very essence of stargazing?” – David Levy

“To gaze into space is to embark upon a spiritual quest, an experience of awe and wonder.” – Roger Ressmeyer

“How can a person ever forget the scene, the glory of a thousand stars in a thousand hues….” – Scotty Houston

“Delightful planetary nebulae – ephemeral spheres that shine in pale hues of blue and green and float amid the golden and pearly star currents of our Galaxy on the foam of the Milky Way like the balloons of our childhood dreams.  If you want to stop the world and get off, the lovely planetaries sail by to welcome you.” – Scotty Houston

The following is by a contemporary amateur, who has always claimed to be nothing more than a humble backyard observer, and a good friend of mine for many years.  The co-founder of the Observer’s Challenge report, which has gained a following all across the country and beyond.  The Challenge will celebrate twelve years, going into 2020.  An amazing contribution to amateur astronomy community for sure!  

“Sharing Observations and Bringing Amateur Astronomers Together” – Roger Ivester  (Observer’s Challenge) https://rogerivester.com/category/observers-challenge-reports-complete-all-reports-from-2009/

James Mullaney