Jump to top page

The Discovery story of Comet Seki-Lines

Part Five: To Copenhagen

    Around that time, I returned home from the telegraph office. I climbed to the observing platform and stared at the southern horizon. It was just past one o'clock in the morning. At times I pictured Mr. Honda guiding the astrograph on this freezing night and a deep sense of gratitude for his graciousness welled up in my heart. Although his efforts were purely for the study of astronomy, it involved a tremendous sacrifice. Reliable photographic observation was essential for a new discovery to be reported world-wide. It could be done by Tokyo Astronomical Observatory or Kurashiki Observatory. With the confirmation by an expert, it could be reported to Copenhagen.

    I wondered if my telegram had been read in time. More than two hours had passed. If my discovery had been confirmed, I should have been told by now. However, a reply from Mr. Honda had not arrived yet. The comet would set below the horizon soon. Zeta Pup was now approaching the low mountain ridges in the south. Buffeted by strong cold wind, I was staring at the stars in Puppis, almost praying. At 2.30 am the stars of Puppis sank below the horizon before my eyes, as if being sucked into the horizon. "It's all over." Strangely, a sense of resignation replaced the frustration I had been feeling up to that moment. "Was my telegram too late?"

    Sunken hearted, I climbed down the ladder from the observing platform. I walked into my room and lied down with my eyes closed. Throughout the 24 hours since my discovery, I had been continuously troubled by tension and anxiety, rarely relaxed. While I was lost in thought, my mind was still chaotic. I couldn't easily shake off the uneasiness that somebody else might have found the comet. I wondered what was going on at Kurashiki Observatory. If Kurashiki successfully verified my discovery, it would be immediately reported to Tokyo Observatory, then all the way to Copenhagen. It was almost 3 am. "Is it all over?" At that instant I was surprised by someone’s banging on the door. "Mr. Seki, an urgent telegram!" I yelled, "I've done it!" and sprang to my feet.
It was the long-awaited reply from Kurashi Observatory. It was past 3 am. Judging from the urgent telegram sent this late, it must be good news. I opened the telegram under dim light in the courtyard. I saw the word KURASHIKI first, then CONGRATULATIONS. "I've done it!" I learned it all at that moment. PHOTO TAKEN HONDA. When I read this message, the excitement of discovery began sinking in. It was the same excitement I had experienced four months earlier, October last year. For the first time my mind was filled with the sense of relief and built-up tension diminished. I was told later that Mr. Honda had wondered if he should send the telegram in the morning, as it was very late. "I wanted to ease his mind as soon as possible, when I thought of his anxiety as a discoverer," he reminisced. It was his warm thoughtfulness keenly aware of the discoverer's anxiety prior to confirmation and naming of the new comet.

    The report of the discovery of a new comet was sent urgently from Kurashiki to Tokyo Astronomical Observatory. At 10 o'clock that morning I received a telegram from the observatory, which read: Received a message from Mr. Honda. Please report the discovery circumstances. Tokyo Astronomical Observatory.

    Judging from this message, my coded telegram sent late last night to Tokyo Observatory apparently hadn't been received. Immediately I sent a telegram again with the details of the discovery.

Copyright (C) 2007 Tsutomu Seki.