• December 30
It has become cold. I saw tall mountains in the west covered
by snow for the first time this winter.
As it was close to the end of the year, I went for a hair
cut after two months' neglect. I made my first visit to this particular
barbershop which had been in business for many generations. The barber
loved chatting with his customers and told me a very unusual story. about
a week ago, he saw a ball of flame passing overhead coming from behind,
while he was riding a bicycle in town at half past five in the morning.
Although the sky was clear, he didn't think it was a star, perhaps a death
candle, because it disappeared soon at a point a little higher than high-voltage
wires. It was orange and egg-shaped. He said he had seen a death candle
once a long time ago in the countryside, but I wonder if a death candle
could appear in mid-winter. It may have been a fireball low on the horizon
and what he experienced could be just an illusion.
I recall that my grandfather, who loved to talk with others,
told me that, when young (toward the end of the Meiji era), he ran into
a death candle while running errands in the evening. He says it was definitely
a death candle. It almost scraped his head coming from behind, got caught
in a branch of a pine tree ahead of him, and died out suddenly. It was
bluish white, as big as a water melon, and trailed a short tail.
In old days neighbors used to gather on summer nights and
heard tales like this from the elders while cooling themselves. But, we
have lost such opportunities in recent years.
• December 23
Christmas has arrived , but a wanderer like me goes to the
observatory in a relaxed mood, without being bothered by the year-end festivity
or new year's day. The night sky over Geisei is particularly dark around
this time of year and I move around in the dark under the huge 60cm telescope.
About 2 o'clock in the morning I always see a dark shadow looking like
a Christmas tree on the dome's glass door. I have no idea what it is and
never open the door because it is scary.
I searched the dawn sky for the first time in many days.
I swept the northeastern sky mainly where I am familiar with star clusters
and nebulae. The brightness of M13 surprised me, though not for the first
time. I know the southeastern sky is important as well, but it is rather
troublesome because there are many nebulae in that part of the sky. I want
to observe more efficiently by gradually getting the feel for search back
which I had acquired many years ago.
There are only a few days left for this year. I am going
to the observatory tonight for this year's last observing session.
• December 5
A passing intense low brought about typhoon-like strong winds
during the night of December 4. However, all have changed overnight and
it has become a clear early-winter day today.
Many airplanes fly over Geisei. Geisei is situated right
below the flight paths of the planes landing at and taking off from Kochi
Ryoma Airport and those flying from Kyushu to Tokyo. Airplanes flying at
high altitudes with short vapor trails (contrail) behind them surprise
me with a comet-like appearance. Planes flying at high altitudes over Shikoku
and entering the airspace over Kyushu appear to be almost stationary in
the evening twilight trailing a white cloud which looks like a comet's
tail. My mind sees it as a comet approaching the sun.
I see this small vapor trail in the evening twilight moving
very slowly just like an astronomical object setting on the horizon by
diurnal motion. I remember that I reported to Mr. Shigeru Kanda of Japan
Astronomical Study Association the sighting of a mysterious object which
might be a comet or meteor trail. It was more than 50 years ago. I reported
this about one month after the sighting because I had read in the Association’s
newsletter a witness’s account of this object in Kagawa Prefecture and
the object was very similar to what I saw.
The mystery about this object was resolved half a century
later at last. It was probably a vapor trail or contrail of a jet plane,
which was very rare around 1953. I believe there were many reports of this
nature those days. It was right after the Korean War and the planes were
probably U.S. military planes, as there were no passenger jets around that
I came upon a memorable photograph. It was taken at the May
regular meeting of Japan Astronomical Study Association held at the Science
Museum, Ueno, Tokyo in 1962. The person far right is Mr. Shigeru Kanda,
director of the Association, the third person to the left is Mr. Tsutomu
Sakanoue. Mr. Akisato Sato from Osaka, who is not seen in the photograph,
was presenting a research paper.
Ueno Park, where the Science Museum was located, was stunningly
beautiful with numerous blooming flowers in the middle of spring. I was
a 32 year-old young man striding in the park with overflowing hopes and
dreams. As you could imagine, it was soon after I had discovered Comet
A regular meeting of Japan Astronomical Study Association
Mr. Shigeru Kanda (far right) and Mr. Tsutomu Sakanoue (3rd from right)
Mr. Ichiro Hasegawa (right) and Tsutomu Seki
At Suma in May 1962