The Story of a Comet Hunter's Life
My 50 years with Comets
Part 3: The first viewing of the sunspots
While running around the haunted house scared, I was separated
from my parents. Finding a white building near the exit blocking my way,
I somewhat felt relieved. I pushed the door to open it. Inside the building
was a little dark, but the spring sun through the slightly opened skylight
created a warm atmosphere, contrary to the ghastly air of the haunted house.
What would spring out of the darkness this time? I looked
around still scared, then suddenly loud laughs burst out of the darkness.
"Ha, ha, ha, ha...Welcome, son! Are you scared? I am
not a ghost. I am a very kind man and show the stars to the visitors."
Saying this, a man came out from behind the furniture. This is the true
identity of the "ghost" of the observatory in Geisei Village.
I was standing in the corner of the room still frightened. This mysterious
man said to me, "Come here, son. I will show you something very unusual,"
and started operating a strange-looking machine.
"What is this machine?" The man's quiet manner
made me feel easy and I asked him at last.
"This is called an astronomical telescope and used to
watch the stars. But during the daytime we can't see the stars, so I show
the visitors sunspots. Watch this." The man began projecting the dazzlingly
bright sun onto a white sheet of paper.
The sun's activity might have been high that year (1937).
A view of about 10 large and small sunspots all lined up neatly is still
etched in my mind firmly, even after 60 years. The face of the good-natured
old man (he looked like that to the little boy) of small stature is very
clearly imaged on my mind's film. Who in the world is this mysterious gentleman
in the haunted house who showed a 6-year old child an astronomical object
for the first time. Why was he to appear at Geisei Observatory as a ghost
half a century later. By now quick-thinking readers may have realized that
this gentleman was Mr. Saizo Goto, a well-known telescope maker. Now I
am going to explain to you the mystery behind this and you will believe
this bizarre story.
Mr. Goto established an optical company in Setagaya Ward,
Tokyo in 1962. In the 11th year of its operation he "forced his way"
into the exhibition accompanied by his wife Tomeko bringing a 10cm equatorial
refractor along built by his own company. It was his observatory (called
"Solar Hall") at the exhibition where this 6-year-old brat took
shelter. Several decades later this kid happened to discover Minor Planet
Goto. If this is not a fate, what is? Mr. Goto told me later that he had
asked Kochi City to allow him to display his company's telescopes at the
exhibition held that year (1937). But his request was turned down for the
reason of lack of space. He persisted, though, and the City finally offered
a corner space in the haunted house. This is how he happened to operate
his "business" called the Solar Hall" on the exhibition
ground. There is no way to tell how many people visited this unusual "observatory",
but when I visited it in early April there seemed to be nobody else. After
the end of the Nangoku Expo, Mr. Goto generously offered this equatorial
refractor to the city, but regrettably his goodwill was not accepted. It
could be partly because of lack of interest in astronomy among the general
public not long after the change of the eras. In spite of this experience
Mr. Goto, however, donated planetariums and observatories to his birthplace,
the City of Aki, as well as primary and junior high schools. He was well-known
for his business acumen, but was prepared to make sacrifices to accomplish
whatever was necessary for cultural and scientific development. Mr. Goto's
last gift to his hometown was the 60cm reflector established at Geisei
Village not far from where he was born.
To our astonishment Kochi City swept aside his generous offer.
(How does astronomy benefit the prefecture?) The thinking of those leading
bureaucrats at that time has remained exactly the same since the time of
the Nangoku Expo half a century ago. Kochi Prefecture has been putting
their efforts in politics, sports, and gambling, but when it comes to science,
they have very little understanding of it. This cultural desert, which
was once called a "desert island on land", seems not to have
changed much in spite of new bridges and improved roads. I take my hat
off to Mr. Goto's passion and persistence. He donated his 60cm reflector
to the prefecture which held on to outmoded thinking. He had them build
a dome for it, too. His primary objective for the donation was to contribute
to improvement of the prefecture's scarce scientific resources. This goal
has been achieved and the observatory has been successfully in operation
since its opening by several dedicated staff members. Although a fewer
people know about Mr. Goto now, many people visit the observatory on public
viewing nights which are held dozens of times a year and enjoy the views
of the heavens. The second objective is to make scientific contributions
by discovering new astronomical objects.
Mr. Goto had donated many telescopes and facilities, but
it is disappointing that these are not fully utilized at present. Some
of them are left rundown. Some are treated as nothing more than storage
space. Geisei Observatory must not be allowed to follow their demise. The
telescope is one of the largest built by the company with so much sacrifice.
I sincerely hope that the telescope will be used by able hands for many,
many years to come. I believe that Mr. Goto appeared as a ghost to have
his wish heard. Mr. Saizo Goto, who is not with us any longer, has become
Minor Planet 2621 and travels space. His spirit departs his planet and
comes down to earth on the observatory's public viewing nights. He sees
the popularity of the events and returns to the sky satisfied. It may sound
similar to the plot in the Rider on the White Horse (Der Schimmelreiter)
by the German novelist Theodor Storm. On some nights when I am observing
alone, I hear footsteps wandering around the dome. I feel as if continuing
to observe protected by Mr. Goto's spirit, I feel.
Copyright (C) 2005 Tsutomu Seki.