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November 2001

• November 25
I persisted with observation until 5.30 in the morning after arriving at the observatory late last night. I swept the predawn southeastern sky very carefully with my comet seeker. The sky was slightly pale with the zodiacal light and light pollution from Aki City compounded by morning twilight. It is no longer easy to find 10-11th magnitude comets, but I am hopeful of a sudden encounter with a comet brighter than 8th magnitude.
C/2000 WM1 (LINEAR) was shining at 6th magnitude behind me while I was observing facing the east. Photographs taken with the 60cm telescope show the coma 15' to 20' in diameter. It seems to begin developing a faint tail. It is accelerating to the south.
I witnessed a Leonid fireball this morning too. It seems to be still active. I enlarged the color photo (presented in Geisei Observatory Reports) to a quarter size(*1) and hung it on the wall of the studio. It is probably a once-in-a-lifetime meteor shower for me.
        (*1) A photographic print size equal to 25.5 cm x 30.5 cm

C/2000 WM1(LINEAR)

2 am November 25, 2001
60cm reflector at Geisei Observatory
15-minute exposure on hypersensitized 6415 film
Tsutomu Seki

• November 20
The season is with us when Canopus is easy to see. With the lopping of the trees around the observatory building, we now have a clearer view. This photo shows Canopus shining over the old observatory building I have been using for many years. Many Leonid meteors appeared south of Canis Major on the 19th of November. Many of them plunged into the distant ocean near Canopus.

• November 19
This was not a public viewing night, but when I arrived at the observatory late at night, I found two newspaper reporters and over 10 members of the public who had come to watch the meteor showers. A reporter from Yomiuri Newspaper in Takamatsu City took photos with the dome behind him. He might be able to enhance his article with a good photo of Leonid meteors crisscrossing like fireflies.
Unlike last night, fire balls with long trails began to streak the sky above the dome after 23.00. These arching fireballs were too many to count around 2 o'clock in the morning. If faint ones were included, there might have been from several hundred to several thousand meteors in one hour. Around 4 in the morning there was at least one meteor somewhere in the sky at any time. At times there were four meteors seen at the same time providing a splendid view. This was no ordinary sight you would encounter everyday. A bright fireball left a trail drifting for more than a minute, which then formed a shape of the letter "S" affected by high-altitude air streams. This reminded me somehow of contrails and exploding shells from anti-aircraft artillery guns during the war. Having seen so many meteors and lost the excitement , I headed for home after 5 am past the peak of the shower. From my car I saw one huge fireball streaming, and then another, and another, looking like incendiary bombs in the brightly burning light-polluted sky. It was 5.30 in the morning and the sky overhead was brightening in twilight.
The photograph here is provided in black and white for the time being. I used Nikon F 35mm lens at f2.8 on TM3200 film. The exposure time was only 3 minutes facing the east from the observatory, which captured as many as 12 meteors. Color photos will be presented at a later date. Eight cameras were engaged. Photograph 2 was taken by Pentax 6x7 and shows a large fireball of a negative magnitude with many fainter meteors streaming in the same direction.

Photograph 1 4 am on November 19

Photograph 2 4.30 am on November 19

• November 17
A public viewing day was held today. The small learning center was crammed with 60 people including 4th graders, parents, and teachers from the local Geisei Primary School. Professor Yamaguchi, a former professor of education of Kochi University, visited us a long time after his last visit and gave an interesting talk about the history of the Solar System. Mr. Oniwa, a junior high school teacher, made easy-to-understand descriptions of the night sky using a personal computer.
However, it became overcast right before the appearance of the Leonid shower and we were only able to show and talk about the telescopes in the dome. In spite of this, children were always enthusiastic making the day a worthwhile event.
One of the children asked me if we could see many meteors in the Leonid shower. My answer was: "There have rarely been many meteors when a great shower has been forecast. Meteor showers usually arrive without any warning like the Winnecke shower several years ago." The audience laughed realizing that this year's Leonid shower might not live up to their expectations because of the publicity and promising forecast.
Ironically, the sky started clearing up after children's departure and there was hardly any cloud at midnight.

A Yomiuri newspaper reporter came from Takamatsu City and was photographing meteors with the dome in the background until around 6 o'clock in the morning. It was now three years after the earth had moved through the parent meteor stream??? and only fewer meteors were seen. At least there was no sign of a meteor storm. I wondered how tomorrow's peak would turn out. The sky was clear.

• November 16
It has cleared up. The Leonids are promising at Geisie on November 18 and 19. Although Temple-Tuttle has gone for three years, can we see fireballs? Even a single Leonid was not seen in the early morning of November 15. If it starts with a big bang, I will put it on my home page.
I remember that among Edgar Allan Poe's mystery novels there was a short story titled "the Fall of the House of Usher". David Asher's theory of meteor showers is mysteriously as attractive as Poe's story. It would be even better if the "fall" was the fall or disintegration of the comet, not that of his theory.
When I visited Mr. Keiichiro Okamura, he was projecting sun spots on paper with a small telescope. According to him, a large sun spot was visible in the setting sun a few days ago.

• November 15
I arrived at the observatory late last night. Recently Geisei's horticultural greenhouses have been well-lit until morning and the sky west of the observatory's hill is completely washed out. In such a terrible sky LINEAR C/2000 WM1 was seen in the 8cm finderscope. The magnitude was visually estimated to be 7.1 and the diameter 10'. Clearly it had been brightening daily. However, the comet was near opposition and its supposedly spectacular tail was streaming in the opposite direction.
The photograph was taken with the 60cm reflector with a 16-minute exposure. Enlargement was possible thanks to fine-resolution of 6415 film.
In the morning Corvus and Spica in Virgo had already risen. November 15, 1947 is a memorable day for me. The discovery of Comet Honda (1947m) inspired me to start comet search. 44 years have passed since. I searched the area around Corvus with my comet seeker, the same area I had searched 44 years earlier. At 5.30 am, the same time as Mr. Honda discovered the comet, I swept the twilight sky with humility and respect. The discovery of Comet Honda (1947m); it is the discovery that changed my life.

Photo taken on November 15
LINEAR (C/2000 WM1) has brightened to 7.1 magnitude
60 cm reflector at Geisei Observatory

• November 7
I went to the observatory, as the weather was good. Trees around the dome were removed, providing a magnificent view extending as far as the southern shores.
C/2000 WM1 was surprisingly bright and I took a photograph of it by 21cm f/3 Epsilon astro-camera. This camera has a focusing problem, resulting in many out-of-focus photographs. Though collimation is not easy, once you have attained an excellent collimation and the lens is in focus, the image is very sharp. The focusing mechanism should be one of a rack-and-pinion or helicoid without rotation, not by the use of the thread on the camera. As it is, forward and reversing movement is too fine and obtaining the accurate focus is not easy. With a special magnifier 80% of the time I can focus it accurately for 6 x 7 format film.
I tried C/2000 WM1 with the 21cm telescope with a 5-minute exposure on Try X film.
In spite of the approaching Leonid shower, the sky was rather quiet. This shower has never eventuated when the expectations and excitement are high. Is it a lull before the storm?

C/2000 WM1(LINEAR)

• November 3
Every year November 3 has been fine, but this year unusually it was rainy. I went to the town hall in the township of Kamimachi while it was raining continuously. I gave a talk entitled "The star of Kamimachi" referring to the Kochi-born Samurai Warrior Ryoma as well as Halley's Comet. To my surprise townspeople did not know that minor planets were named after Ryoma, Kamimachi, and the nearby river Kagamigawa.

• November 1
Technicians from Goto Optics have come to conduct an annual overhaul of the 60cm telescope and been working on it since October 31. They do comprehensive repairs over a period of three days. Many manufactures of large-size telescopes do not provide good after-sales service, but as expected of a major pioneering optical company, Goto impressed me with their excellent service. Geisei's 60cm telescope will turn 20 this year and this aging telescope needs modernization with CCD equipment. With Mr. Keiichiro Okamura, a staff member of the observatory, we cut grass near the observatory entrance and removed the obstructing branches of the pine trees in preparation for the coming public viewing day. Over a period of 20 years, trees around the observatory have grown tall. The town will conduct a large-scale lopping operation soon The next public viewing day will commence at 5 pm, Saturday, November 10.

Mr. Mano (Goto Optical Manufacturing) inspecting
Geisei's 60cm telescope

Copyright (C) 2001 Tsutomu Seki.