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September 2005

• September 28
    I have seen an image of SWAN (C/2005 P3) for the first time. Mr. Hirohisa Sato, first discoverer of the comet, has sent me this image. It is excellent and shows the diffuse appearance of the comet, which will make the accurate measurements rather difficult.

    On September 26, I went to the observatory. The sky cleared up about the time this comet set below the horizon. Observation in this part of the sky in summer is difficult because of the lingering clouds. I have sent the results of today's measurements to the MPC after making minor adjustments with reference to O-C.

    I will try C/2005 R4 tomorrow, as it is cloudy today. The coordinates on the console for the 60cm reflector show incorrect hours in RA and, as a result, I often photograph areas as much as one hour off the targets. The minute values are correct, though. It will be checked by Goto Optical Company in October.

    Yesterday I received a phone call from a Mr. Y for the first time. He was a young comet hunter in his 20s when the Comet Bulletin was launched 30 years ago. He is now in his 50s but says that occasionally he still searches for a comet, being unable to entirely give up hope for a discovery. We had a very pleasant, lively conversation for as long as 30 minutes. I found out that he had been searching an area of the sky quite close to where Comet Denning-Fujikawa was discovered.

    I also received a phone call from Mr. Mineo Nishikawa, who is a long-time member of OAA living in Yokohama. As I had not heard from him recently, I sent him a postcard worrying about his health. My concern has turned out to be unnecessary. Although he is older than I, he told me he had swum 1500 meters in an international triathlon event. He was a top swimmer of Japan in the days when internationally competitive swimmers like Furuhashi and Hashizume were at their peak. Incidentally, I swam 100-meter breaststroke at the national Masters Games held at Kochi on September 18.

    Few people know that Mr. Nishiyama was a member of the team who calculated circular orbits of minor planets under the guidance of Dr. Shigeru Kanda. Other members were Oishi, Mori, Tomita, Takeuchi and me. I have a fond memory of visiting second-hand bookstores in Kanda, Tokyo, looking for Gauss's 5-digit logarithmic table and Bauschinger's astronomical tables. It was quite exciting to find the names of famous astronomers of past years written in the reference books I purchased. In those days students including those who later became well-known astronomers were living a life of poverty and often forced to sell their reference books.

    Around 1955 I was looking for Gauss's log table. Mr. Ichiro Hasegawa advised me to try "Ikegami Bookstore" across the street from Kochi University front gate. Following his advise I went to that bookstore at Ozu, which are now long gone, and to my surprise found the log table there. I meant to ask Mr. Hasegawa how he had known that bookstore had the log table, but I forgot. I fondly remember meager and simple life in those days when I had only a log table, notebooks, and pencils on an old desk. All I used for night sky search were a small comet seeker, a sketchbook, and a red flashlight, nothing more. I persevered the overwhelmingly cold nights and courageously grappled with orbital calculations. I was in my 20s full of freshness, vitality, and energy.

• September 21
    I went to the observatory yesterday evening. I intended to repair damage caused by Typhoon No. 13 (Talim) and also make the first evening observation after full moon. However, clouds prevented observation. The remote control for the 60cm reflector has been unstable working on and off since the last breakdown of the telescope. The problem seems to be caused by a faulty connection in the control box which is fitted with a switch, though I am not quite sure. It was working last night. It makes me very anxious because trouble can start any time during observation. It is as precarious as defusing an explosive. The fear of unexpected interruption to guiding during an important observation burdened me heavily.

    This morning I learned from a fax sent by Mr. Hirohisa Sato of Fukushima Prefecture that our naming proposal to IAU was accepted and that an asteroid (9964) discovered at Geisei was named after Dr. Hideyo Noguchi. However, the name was spelt "Hideo" instead of "Hideyo." Perhaps Japanese names are difficult to English-speaking people. I have immediately sent a mail to Dr. Marsden requesting the correction.

    Dr. Marsden might have mixed up Hideyo with Hideo, perhaps being familiar with the name of Dr. Hideo Hirose (former director-general of Tokyo Observatory). Dr. Hirose precedes Dr. Marsden in the field of orbital calculation. Dr. Hirose told me that Mr. Ichiro Hasegawa and Mr. Kiichiro Furukawa were once regarded identical mistakingly, both of whom have been very active in orbital calculation. If you place their romanized names side by side, you will see how this mistake occurred: Ichiro Hasegawa Kiichiro Hurukawa.

    At a casual glance they look alike, particularly because Mr. Furukawa spelt his name Hurukawa. Both of them are also known world-wide for their work in planetary orbits.

    I have loved and respected Dr. Hideyo Noguchi since my elementary school days. Dr. Noguchi established himself as a great scholar in medical science in spite of tremendous hardships and I am very pleased that his name shines in the starry sky eternally.

• September 19
    Completing the swimming events, I was relieved and relaxed. Strangely, however, I couldn't sleep well. Wondering if it was already at dawn, I looked at the watch. The luminous hands showed it was 4.10 am. Then, I suddenly sat up. That's right! It was exactly the moment I discovered Comet Ikeya-Seki 40 years ago. At that moment my 9cm comet seeker froze exactly at 15 degrees in altitude and in the direction of southeast. The sky was clear and waning moon was shining.

    The sky was clear tonight, too, but it was near full moon. I walked up to the rooftop above the 3rd floor and found Hydra was lying in the southeast sky over Mt. Hitsuzan with moonlight shining the ground as if nothing had happened. The sound of the roaring sea in the wake of a typhoon, which I had heard 40 years ago, was not heard tonight, of course.

    I was told that America's Sky & Telescope magazine was preparing an article to feature the 40th anniversary of Comet Ikeya-Seki's discovery. David Levy, a famous American comet hunter, sent me a list of questions via Mr. Eiji Kato in Australia. Through his translation I answered many questions, giving my opinions and thoughts as the co-discoverer of the comet. I told him about my feelings and secrets I had never told before. I am looking forward to the January issue of the magazine.

• September 18
    The annual National Masters Games swimming events were held today at the indoor swimming pool at Kochi prefecture's Eastern Sports Park. I competed last year and raced this year too. I swam 25 meter breaststroke in 21 seconds and 100 meter breaststroke in 1 minute 52 seconds. Every year it takes me longer to complete. An out-of-prefecture fellow swimmer whom I had never met before asked me if I was still searching for comets.

    I swim basically for fitness and to built strength to continue to observe; a competition is just an addition. I can't remember how I started to race, but 30 years have passed since my first participation. When I was 40, I swam 25 meters in 19 seconds. This means I slowed down by 2 seconds. Usually, I leisurely swim backstroke or breaststroke for a long distance. While swimming, I am always thinking at the back of my mind how I can find a comet? I always recall my teacher's stern word: "To accomplish your aim, think about it all the time." Thinking about comets all the time has become second nature to me.

• September 5
    Mr. Kenji Muraoka came over with replacement parts to fix my problem computer. Thanks to him, I am now able to make positional measurements of comets again. I only have to wait for Geisei's 60cm reflector, still out of action, to be repaired.

    A few days ago, Mr. Hirohisa Sato, a member of OAA, discovered a comet from SWAN images. It is a great achievement. It must be the fruits of his passion for astronomy and continuing work on the comet. He is a striking contrast to people who, learning of the LINEAR project, quit searching and observing. In the past five years, a number of new comets have been discovered visually by veteran comet hunters. This proves that continuing efforts bring about a success.

    I went to the outdoor swimming pool at Haruno in the city, while Typhoon No. 14 (Nabi) was moving closer. I swam 500 meters by breaststroke and 200 meters by backstroke. Rain was beating hard the surface of the rather cold water. During the morning I went to the observatory and covered the 60cm reflector with a sheet of tarpaulin because there could be a water leak in case the dome shutter was not tightly closed. The typhoon may leave this area around September 7. Once it has cleared up, I will search the early autumn sky to my heart's content. At nightfall, rain has become much heavier.
Copyright (C) 2005 Tsutomu Seki.