Not long after the end of the war, there was a radio drama
with the plot developing like this:
A thief escaped into an observatory deep in the mountains.
The thief has always lived a life on the dark side of society committing
crime after crime. At the observatory after escaping society, he begins
to live a life of reflection and repentant, encouraged by the kind-hearted
observatory staff. He has experienced a world he had never dreamed of and
became fascinated by the universe while working at the observatory taking
photographs of distant galaxies for research. The story ends when he starts
to follow a path to a professional astronomer leaving his dark past behind.
When I listened to this radio drama, I was reminded of a strange fate of
life. Frightened at the haunted house when I was a child, I ran into an
observatory where Mr. Goto showed me sunspots. From that experience I became
interested in astronomy.
Incidentally, there were many high quality radio dramas soon
after the war. There were no commercial radio stations then. Today's airwaves
are flooded with hundreds of stations, but in those days we could receive
only NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) in Shikoku and it was enjoying
a very high popularity rating. There was a drama titled "the Footsteps"
broadcast in autumn of 1946. It depicted pain and distress of the mother
who had been waiting for her conscripted son's return at the end of the
war. One particular scene was the best of all the radio dramas. In desolate
streets of town depressed by the defeat a characteristic high-pitched sound
of footsteps is getting closer second by second to her doorway. It created
an intense anticipation and a frightening moment. Amid a flood of trashy
programs, excellent programs remain in listeners' memory forever
I hadn't had the opportunity to see Mr. Goto for almost 40
years since the exposition, but after our dream observatory was built at
Geisei Village I had maintained frequent correspondence with him.
The primary objective of the observatory is to make it known
and accessible to the public, as mentioned earlier. The second objective
is to use the facilities for scientific purposes and contributions. In
fact Mr. Goto had a third objective. He saw Halley's Comet in his youth
and wanted to see it one more time. For that purpose, he thought, the observatory
newly established at Geisei Village would be very useful. It was his last
dream in his long astronomical career.
Geisei Observatory was opened in April 1981 with Mr. and
Mrs. Goto themselves present along with Mr. Masatoshi Kitamura of the National
Observatory, Mr. Tsutomu Sakagami of Kyushu, and Mr. Minoru Honda of Kurashiki.
However, the observatory had started "its operation" a little
earlier than that. It is an endearing memory that I found the periodical
comet Longmore after sneaking into the observatory one night in January,
while the dome was not operative as the observatory was still under construction
and not connected to power. In those days I used Kodak's 103a and Fuji
FLO-II glass photographic plates. I began patrolling the sky under perfect
skies where gegenschein was so bright that it could fog the plates. I was
thoroughly prepared for Halley's return, but had an idea which I hadn't
told anybody. I wanted to name the first minor planet I would discover
at this observatory in honor of Mr. Goto . My efforts was rewarded by the
discovery of the minor planet 1981CA, which was found in Leo on February
9, 1981. Without any hesitation I proposed naming this minor planet "Goto."
However, for naming a minor planet the object is required to be detected
at four oppositions. The approval of this proposal by the Smithsonian took
place in 1984 at the time of the arrival of Halley's Comet.
Mr. Goto had long been a member of OAA since its inception
and I heard that he had been a good friend of Dr. Issei Yamamoto's. We
have discovered and/or observed about 2000 minor planets at Geisei Observatory,
110 of which have been confirmed and being named. Naming of the minor planets
after OAA's earlier leaders is in progress with assistance from Mr. Ken
Sato and Mr. Ichiro Hasegawa. When this is completed, the current phase
of Geisei's work related to minor planets will come to an end.
Observation of Halley's Comet at its second apparition this
century succeeded in September 1984. That night a woman writer accompanying
a reporter from Tokyo Asahi Newspaper wrote us a poem commemorating Japan's
first sighting of the comet by Geisei.
Encountering the star long awaiting
amid a chorus of insects' chirping
That night, in fact, a loud chorus of unseasonal chirps of
autumn insects was heard in the bush around the observatory. When insects'
chirping is heard with the arrival of autumn, even now I remember the days
we were tracking Halley's Comet; agonizing 40 minutes with my eye fixed
on a guide star. A CCD high-definition television camera was following
my activity all night in the normally solitary dome. They were the Japan
Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) 's crew for reporting on Halley's Comet.
When they went to the Smithsonian Institution in the U.S. for preliminary
reporting on the comet, Dr. Marsden told them that Mt. John in New Zealand
or Geisei in Japan would be the observatories to capture Halley's Comet
first in the East.
Around that time the sky over Geisei was still dark. When
we found Halley's comet, its total magnitude was 20.5. In those days CCDs
were generally uncommon and the situation would be quite different today.
However, Mr. Goto was ill in bed then. He was very pleased
with Japan's first sighting of Halley's Comet by Geisei and sent us a congratulatory
message dictated to Mrs. Goto. He was dreaming about his second encounter
with the comet. Everyday he looked at the comet's orbital path and a photograph
taken at the time of detection. However, the comet's 76-year orbital period
was too long for a human lifespan. Close to its return, Mr. Goto passed
away. Sadly, his dream of seeing the comet twice was unfulfilled. However,
I believe he saw Halley's Comet twice. It is because of a totally unexpected
development in April of the following year, 1986, when Halley's comet was
approaching the earth.