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May 2008

May 3
    After a long "hibernation", I awoke to find spring at its peak. The temperature rose to nearly 30 degrees C today.
    The three staff members, the "pillars" of new Geisei Observatory, met today. They are Kenji Muraoka, specialist in orbit calculations, Shigeo Shimomoto, CCD observer, and Tsutomu Seki hunting for comets with "unbridled enthusiasm". They constitute the "Project Geisei" team. In the dome under a beautiful starry sky, we marveled at CCD images captured by the new altazimuth-mounted 70cm reflector. We photographed C/2008 H1. A color CCD image of M51 in Ursa Major hanging high in the northern sky was very impressive helped by the the 70cm reflector's 5000 mm focal length. In spite of this long focal length, it tracks the target accurately. Its "GoTo" system is very accurate for any astronomical object. The remaining problems are tube currents, vignetting occurring where the CCD is attached, the slow f-ratio (f/7.3), and others. All these will be expected to be fixed by the manufacturer in a month or so.
    After Mr. Muraoka left, Mr. Shimomoto and I continued to observe while reminiscing about the old days. Mr. Shimomoto told me he had inherited a memorable mechanical computer from Mr. Hasegawa, president of Oriental Astronomical Association. I shared my experience with him of calculating orbits using a mechanical computer like that for many, many years. During that period I calculated the circular orbits of about 250 minor planets and also did calculations with Mr. Hasegawa to determine the orbit of Comet Perrine, which was lost around 1955. It is funny to picture that Mr. Hasegawa in Kobe and I in Kochi were madly calculating the orbit generating a loud noise by turning the handle of a mechanical computer, and yet it was so satisfactory to me. We would even managed to work out Gauss's biquadratic equation to determine the distance to astronomical objects.
    After Mr. Shimomoto left for home, I stayed on in the dome to conduct photographic patrol. At the same time I searched the eastern sky in the approaching twilight using 15cm binoculars in a roll-off roof observatory. It had been quite a while since my last search. I came across the familiar glow of M31. I noticed there was a faint mist hanging low in the sky.

Copyright (C) 2008 Tsutomu Seki.