Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

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)

James Mullaney 

Debbie Ivester: My First Photo of The Moon Using an iPhone. I’d Like To Now Try With My DSLR Camera and an 80mm f/5 Refractor.

January 22, 2019

I was using an iPhone 10 and a 6-inch f/6 imaging reflector with a 24mm eyepiece for a magnification of 38x.  After focusing the telescope on the moon, I then handheld the phone up to the telescope eyepiece.  This was a bit more difficult than I would have thought.  


The phone had to be perfectly aligned over the telescope eyepiece, while looking at the phone screen, which required some slight moving around until the moon was visible.  Then a light tap on the phone shutter button, and there was an image of the moon.  Pretty incredible!  A bit of practice was required to get this right. 

Unfortunately some high cirrus clouds began covering the moon.  I chose to use the following photo, despite the clouds as this was my best.  I’ll try again on a better night.  It was also really cold!  

It would have been great if I’d tried this during the lunar eclipse.  

Roger helped me to accomplish this goal on a very cold night. 

Also, thanks to Richard Nugent of Boston for the post of the Lunar Eclipse that spawned my appetite or interest in making a photo using an iPhone and a telescope.  

This is not a big deal to serious astrophotographers, but I’d just always wanted to take a photo of the moon.   


Just received my T-ring and adapter, and have attached my DSLR to an 80mm f/5 refractor.  I hope to try the moon again with this combination.  Debbie 



A Refractor Telescope Story, By Guest Host, Sue French, New York

November 12, 2018

Roland Christen and I met in 1980 at Stellafane and became friends. Sometime later, Roland said he had two sets of NASA glass to make triplet refractors.  He planned to make one lens for himself and sell the second set of glass.  I talked him into selling it to Alan. 

Alan still hadn’t gotten around to making the lens by 1987, so I said that I knew Roland would like to see that lens in a scope, and if Alan wasn’t going to tackle it himself, we should ask Roland how much he’d want to turn it into a lens for us.  Roland made us promise to take the scope to the next Stellafane. It took us quite a while to get a tube, and after that we only had a few months before the convention.  I was still painting parts at the motel we were staying at when we got to Stelli.   Sue French 



Cline Observatory Double and Multiple Star List – Compiled By Tom English; Consisting of 25 Doubles and 5 Triples

June 22, 2018

Cline Observatory Double Star List – 25double-5triple

     Tom English has put together an excellent list of twenty-five doubles and five multiple stars, which at first glance would seem to be compiled for only those new to this facet of amateur astronomy.  However, for those of us who have enjoyed double star observing for decades, we know there is no such thing as a beginners list.

     Double star lists may be compiled of the most difficult pairs due to their close separations and sometimes with unequal magnitudes, or those with wide separations and beautiful contrasting colors.  It was the latter which coined the name: “The jewels of the night sky.”

     This list contains some beautiful and interesting doubles, all of which can be observed with a small telescope.  

     The famous double star, Epsilon Bootis is probably the most difficult double on the list, which has always required at least a 4-inch refractor for me.  Many observers have reported seeing the companion to Epsilon with a 3-inch aperture.    

     Are you stressed, too tired to take out that big telescope, but would like to enjoy an hour or so of relaxation under the night sky?  So….why not a 60 mm refractor or a 3-inch reflector?   And you don’t have to worry too much about a bright moon or ambient lights as both have little effect on “most” double or multiple stars.     

     Want to become a better double star observer?  I’ve listed a few things as following which have helped me over the years:  

     I’ve never been able to observe through a telescope eyepiece and stand at the same time, much less attempt to separate a very close pair.     

     And for those extremely close and difficult doubles, an eyepatch is necessary for the non-observing eye.  

     It’s important to relax the facial muscles and “absolutely” essential to hold the observing eye very still and on-axis….hence the need to be seated.  


Roger Ivester  


Aerial View Of Meteor Crater Compliments of James Yeager, Pilot American Airlines

December 6, 2016

“The snow on Meteor Crater for an ice effect as the sun was starting to set.”  James Yeager 


Orion Telescopes and Binoculars Deep-Sky Challenge: Galaxy NGC 891 Andromeda: November

September 17, 2016

By Roger Ivester

Stargazing Simplified: The following is a brief excerpt from a Sky & Telescope Magazine article by James Mullaney. Something for contemplation!

August 25, 2016


Stargazing Simplified!
James Mullaney, F.R.A.S.

Stargazing Simplified! Of the more than 1,000 articles on observing I’ve published over the past 60 years, this is the title of the one I consider to be the most important of them all. It appeared in the April, 2014, issue of Sky & Telescope magazine. The opening paragraph appears below. If this speaks to you and you have access to back issues of the magazine, hopefully you will take time to check out the entire article! –Jim Mullaney

Today’s hectic lifestyle, obsession with computers and high-tech electronic gadgets and mantra that “bigger is better” (in TV screens at least) has carried over into amateur astronomy. Witness the Messier and other observing “marathons,” computer-controlled remote CCD-imaging telescopes, and observatory-sized trailer-mounted Dobsonian reflectors. Casual, relaxing stargazing seems to be largely a thing of the past — something practiced by only a few of us purists. To me, stargazing should provide a relaxing interlude from the pressures and worries of everyday living rather than contribute to them.
This little glass has yet another virtue over big ones: it has a relatively limited number of targets! Now most readers probably would not consider this an advantage — but it is! I’m not tempted to find large numbers of objects when I go out — eliminating the malady I refer to as “saturated stargazing.” Michael Covington tells us that “All galaxies deserve to be stared at for a full 15 minutes.” I would extend this advice to every celestial object. I prefer to view at most a dozen of the sky’s wonders (including the Moon and planets) during the course of an evening in a relaxed and contemplative manner. To me, glancing at an object, then rushing on to another and another is like reading the Cliff’s Notes of the world’s great novels.   James Mullaney

2015 in review

December 31, 2015

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 9,100 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Ted Komorowski Story – North Carolina Amateur Astronomer – 1940-1969

January 11, 2013

     As you become absorbed in amateur astronomy, you may stop to wonder how others developed an interest in this hobby.  Amateur astronomy is truly nothing new.  The technology has changed, the number of people involved has changed, however, the same basic desire has remained the same.  A curiosity of what’s up in the night sky.  While you may use a sophisticated computerized telescope with the finest of eyepieces, the earlier amateurs used both crude lenses and telescopes, sometimes made by themselves.  Some did it for science, while others did it simply for pleasure and “for the love of.”  Within our own American history of amateur astronomy is an unusual, but sad story of one amateur; not unlike many of us in one way, however, far different in others.  He left a legacy almost despite himself.  This is the story of that amateur which has been told to me by some of his acquaintances of days past.  

     In 1992, I read the following from “1000+ The Amateur Astronomer’s Field Guide to Deep-Sky Observing” P-81, by North Carolina amateur and author, Tom Lorenzin.  I became very interested in the story and wanted to learn more.    

“In the case of Andromeda’s NGC 404 “Comet Komorowski” commemorates highly eccentric Ted Komorowski, Charlotte, N.C., amateur who “discovered” the object and who found nothing plotted that near beta AND on Becvar’s Atlas Coeli.  Convinced of his claim to fame and immortality, he wired his discovery to the proper authorities and hopped from one foot to the other for days until the big needle returned by mail to puncture his dream.  Ted was an amateur astrophotographer long before it was fashionable to be-so (mid-60’s) .  Impulsive by nature, he was known to “assassinate” photos he thought less-than-perfect by shining a flashlight down the tube of his Newtonian while the camera shutter was still open.  Alas, Ted Komorowski is reported to have died a violent death by gunshot at the hands of his self-defending girlfriend.”  Tom Lorenzin   

     Elliptical galaxy NGC 404 could easily be mistaken for a comet, especially if it was unknown to the observer, prior to an observation.  This magnitude 8 galaxy is nestled in the glow of the much brighter star, BETA Andromeda.  I have observed this galaxy many times over the years and have found it to be fairly easy to see with telescopes as small as an 80 mm refractor.  When observing NGC 404 on those cooler nights of fall, I always think about the excitement Ted Komorowski must have felt when thinking he had discovered a new comet.  

     Gayle Riggsbee of Charlotte had known Ted for many years and talked with him only days before his untimely death in 1969.  Gayle was a mechanical engineer and helped Ted with his many astronomy projects.  On many afternoons, when returning home from work, Gayle would find Ted sitting on his steps…he might need some penny’s converted into copper washers, or any number of things.  Ted didn’t have a job, and had very little money, so he was forced to improvise on his projects.  

     Ken Dwight of Houston, lived in the same Charlotte neighborhood as Komorowski from the early 50’s until 1968.  Ken knew Ted very well and was impressed with his skills and abilities as an amateur astronomer.  Robert White became acquainted with Komorowski when he was only twelve years old, and had many discussions with him concerning astronomy and telescopes.  Ted really liked to share his knowledge of amateur astronomy with others.  He was a member of the Charlotte Amateur Astronomers Club for several years.   

     The Charlotte Amateur Astronomers Club has really grown since the days of Ted Komorowski, with a current membership of a hundred or more, and a club observatory.  They also sponsor the nationally renowned and celebrated Southern Star Astronomy Convention in the mountains of North Carolina, near Little Switzerland.  Gayle Riggsbee and Robert White are still members of the club.

     Ted Komorowski could be considered an advanced amateur for many reasons.  During the early sixties, most amateurs were using small telescopes and fortunate indeed was one who had a 6-inch reflector.  Ted’s 12.5-inch f/6.5 Criterion reflector was the largest telescope in the Charlotte area during the early 60’s.  He was one of the first astrophotographers in the region and also documented his observations.  He built his own drive corrector based on an article he had read in Sky & Telescope Magazine.  His photo efforts at times were very frustrating, but he still fantasized about selling his slides to planetariums throughout the country. 

     Ted apparently corresponded regularly with Walter Scott Houston who was a contributor to Sky & Telescope Magazine for more than 47 years, writing the Deep-Sky Wonders column.  Ted took amateur astronomy very seriously.  

     In the book “Deep-Sky Wonders” Walter Scott Houston, selections and commentary by Stephen James O’Meara, adapted from his columns in “Sky & Telescope” Magazine.  Ted is mentioned twice: 

Page 7:  “IC 434, but no Horsehead, was seen with a 2.4-inch refractor by Larry Krumenaker in New Jersey, with a 12-inch f/6.5 reflector by Ted Komorowski in North Carolina, and with 6-inch f/8 telescopes by Stephen Barnhart in Ohio and Mark Grunwald in Indiana.  However, other observers were more successful.”  

Page 231:  The Helix Nebula:  “Ted Komorowski told of a gray disk easily visible in his 8-inch f/7.5 at 56x.” 

He also wrote quite a few letters to the editors of Sky & Telescope Magazine, concerning everything from meteor showers to a review and comparison of planetary nebulae.

The following letters and writings are from the Sky & Telescope DVD collection.  

Sky & Telescope, Letters – April 1965,  p.215


     On page 85 of the February issue, C.R. O’Dell points out the desirability of special amateur observations of central stars in planetary nebula, to check on possible brightness changes.  He gives a list of the five planetaries having the brightest central stars.  I feel that NGC 2392 in Gemini and NGC 3132 in Antlia should be added, since visually I find that their central stars seem at least as bright as that in NGC 6826, which Dr. O’Dell lists.  

Ted R. Komorowski                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Sky & Telescope, Observer’s Page – January 1966, p.58-59:   S&T DVD collection  (Abbreviated) 

Many Leonids Observed

On the morning of November 16, 1965, observers in Hawaii and Australia saw what may have been the richest shower of Leonid meters since 1932.  At Charlotte, North Carolina, Ted R. Komorowski logged 115 Leonids…

Sky & telescope, February 1962, p. 4-5 “Leonids Meteors Give Unexpected Display”  This was a very lengthy letter  and the following is only the first paragraph. 

On November 17th, Ted R. Komorowski wrote to Sky and Telescope:  S&T DVD collection

    “This morning between moonset and sunrise, I observed a very rich display of Leonids.  They were literally dropped everywhere and in large numbers, sometimes three, four, or even five in rapid succession.  Almost every other one was 1st or zero magnitude and streak-leaving.  Eight were of magnitude -1 or brighter, and three others rivaled the quarter moon!”   

Some personal information about Ted Komorowski:

     Komorowski lived with his parents, except for a brief period when he went away to college.  He did not have a drivers license until a year or possibly two, prior to his death, and he never owned a car.  His mode of transportation was a bicycle.  On occasion he would ask others for a ride, however, Ted had very few friends.  From all accounts, it would appear that Ted had some social skill issues, at times having difficulty relating to others.  

     Ted earned a scholarship to Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  He studied nuclear physics, but attended for only a year, possibly two.  He then returned back home where he felt the most comfortable.  Ted had a desire and ambition of becoming a planetarium lecturer.

     A year or two before his death, Ted did get a job, delivering milk, going door to door, during the very early morning hours.  This might have been the perfect job for Ted, as he worked mostly by himself, and it allowed him the opportunity to observe every clear night, if he so desired.  

Ted Komorowski died of a gunshot wound in 1969:  

     It has been alleged that Ted’s girlfriend was planning on severing her relationship with him.  She was concerned that Ted might become violent when she delivered the bad news, and secured a small handgun for self-defense.  Allegedly, after the breakup, she felt threatened during a confrontation and fired a single shot, hitting Ted in the chest, killing him instantly.  After his passing, Ted’s father asked fellow club member, Gayle Riggsbee if he would select some of his best slides and give to the Charlotte Nature Museum as a memorial.  

The Criterion 12.5-inch f/6.5 reflector telescope, and equipment:  

     The telescope was ordered from Criterion as an optical tube assembly only, but without the mirrors.  Ted, however, ordered the mirrors from the Optical Craftsman, who guaranteed his criteria for a 1/20 wave accuracy.  From all who have had the opportunity to observe through this scope, it has been reported to be an excellent mirror indeed.  The mirror is dated 12-2-60, which might indicate that the telescope was possibly received in 1961. 

     He replaced the standard four-vane spider with a custom made circular spider to eliminate spikes during astrophotography. This was an advanced feature in the early 60’s.  

     Teds favorite eyepiece was the Criterion 16.3 mm Erfle eyepiece with a very wide 75 degree apparent field.  He also had the 4 and 6 mm Criterion orthoscopic eyepieces. 

     The focal length of the 12.5-inch f/6.5 scope is 2064, which would have given a magnification of 126x when using the 16.3 mm eyepiece.  The 16.3 mm Erfle would most likely have been his eyepiece of choice when observing deep-sky objects.  Could this have been the eyepiece that he employed when he saw the smudge in the glare of Beta Andromeda?  

     The 12.5-inch Criterion telescope is really big, with the tube being slightly over 6 1/2 feet in length.  Unfortunately, Ted could not afford to purchase the proper mount, but instead used the mount from his previous 8-inch Criterion scope, which was a bit too small.  The Komorowski telescope is now owned by the Cleveland County Astronomical Society.  It is maintained and stored in the Williams Observatory, on campus of Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, North Carolina.  

     The telescope has been completely restored by Steve Davis and John Elmore of the Cleveland County Astronomical Society.  This is a beautiful scope in pristine condition. The original Criterion mount has now been replaced by a much more heavy duty mount, manufactured by Meade Instruments Corporation, and designed for a 16-inch, model DS-16A reflector. 

Photo of the 12.5-inch Criterion Komorowski scope. (courtesy of Tommy Forney)


For a size reference, I’ve included a photo of myself with the famous telescope.  It’s a big scope for sure!  Photo by Debbie Ivester


     Ted observed from his backyard in Charlotte.  The mount was “at times” left outside and covered when not in use.  The OTA was stored in Ted’s living room, sitting on the mirror end in a corner.  However, Ken Dwight remembers seeing the scope on many occasions mounted in the side yard, covered with a tarp.   

M42 – Date: 1968 – Telescope: 12.5-inch f/6.5 reflector using high speed 160 ektachrome slide film – Photo by Ted Komorowski  (Courtesy of Gayle Riggsbee and Tommy Forney)


      The following is from Sky & Telescope, October 1969 – Letters, p.239   (S&T DVD collection) 

 Why Study The Stars?

     To a casual spectator, the heavens on a clear night present a vast, featureless jumble of myriads of specks of light, with a few brighter beacons.  But to someone who has taken the time to become acquainted with his heavenly friends, the sky is made up of orderly patterns and shapes, while bright or important stars and all the planets become celestial landmarks leading to the more difficult objects.

     Some knowledge of the constellations gives one a 24-hour clock, a compass, and a protractor, but there are also philosophical aesthetic, and scientific reasons for stargazing.   Stars are lovely to behold, forming attractive celestial patterns, and some who even have a shade of color.  Scientists can study the stars to learn about matter under conditions unobtainable in earthly laboratories.  An even greater knowledge of our own world and its beginning and its eventual ending can be gotten from observing stars in different ways.

     Star names and their derivations indicate something of the contributions to astronomy of ancient and fallen civilizations, and celestial mythology is a storehouse of early folklore.  The legends of Perseus, Andromeda, and Orion are well established in the sky for ages to come.  The planets, too, have their store of myths.  Mars, named after the Roman god of war because of its angry red countenance, is really not as harsh as its name implies, for it is the least hostile to life of all the other planets.  

     Men who spend their lives trying to figure out the scheme of things and find the meaning in the universe, men who are seeking answers to very difficult questions, are greatly aided and guided by knowing what is happening above.  Reverent people may feel closer to the Creator after they have acquired a knowledge of his creations.  Others may gain their first religious awareness from experiencing the wonder, awe, and mystery of the firmament.

      Even ordinary laymen like ourselves, with no other aim than appreciating nature, can find immense enjoyment and well-spent hours in getting acquainted with other worlds above and beyond our own.  Here is treasure for all kinds of people, regardless of their purposes, if only they will look and learn.  Ted R. Komorowski  

     This is the last composition of a young amateur astronomer of Charlotte, North Carolina, who died suddenly early this year.  He frequently reported his observations of celestial phenomena to this magazine.   ED     (Sky & Telescope Magazine)

      I would like to thank Gayle Riggsbee of Charlotte, and Ken Dwight of Houston, without them and their memories, this story would have gone untold. 

      Thanks to Tom English for his research using the S&T magazine DVD collection to gather all of the magazine quotes and letters.  

      A special thanks to Sky & Telescope Magazine for giving me permission to use the information and letters provided to the editors by Ted Komorowski, also quotes by Walter Scott Houston from Deep-Sky Wonders.    

Roger Ivester  



M105, NGC 3384, NGC 3389, 10-inch reflector

May 21, 2010

M105, NGC 3384, NGC 3389

M105, NGC 3384, NGC 3389