C/1953 G1 (Mrkos-Honda)
It was on April 12, 1953 (U.T.), many decades ago, when Comet
Mrkos-Honda (C/1953 G1) was discovered. This discovery was made following
five years of unsuccessful search after he had discovered three comets
successively from 1947 to 1948, not long after the end of the war. In those
days the discovery telegrams were wired to Japan by Astronomical Telegrams
from Copenhagen. Mr. Honda's discovery report was accepted after the initial
discovery telegram had been delivered to Japan. This was very unusual,
indeed, by the present standard. Mr. Honda discovered the comet 19 hours
later than Mrkos and, while he was waiting for a chance to confirm it the
following day, the discovery by Mrkos was announced. Mr. Honda's name was
added probably because of his past outstanding achievements. This would
not have happened, if it had been a discovery made by a rank amateur.
As soon as Mr. Honda contacted me, I observed the comet.
I remember it was a diffused 9th magnitude comet with a coma approximately
4' in diameter. It was in the constellation of Pegasus, which would rise
to the zenith in the predawn sky. Skalnate Pleso Observatory in Czechoslovakia
(present day Slovakia) committed themselves to visual comet search in those
days. Mrkos and a few other eagle-eyed observers were searching for new
comets frantically at an altitude of 1400 meters under ideal conditions.
They were so enthusiastic that even Dr. Antonin Becval, director of the
observatory, made a discovery by himself. All in all, they discovered more
than 10 comets over a period of 10 years from 1947. The famous Comet Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak
was also discovered by Dr. Kresak at this observatory using a comet seeker,
almost by chance, in the absence of any predicted positions. CCDs have
made comet search easier today, but in those days all the search was done
completely visually under extremely difficult conditions.
The comet seeker used for the searches at the observatory
was 25x10cm binoculars made by Somet-Binar. In those days Mrkos observed
at a meteorological station, 1000 meters higher than the observatory. I
wonder how beautiful the stars were up there and how cold it was in winter.
Back in those days in Kochi, early morning temperatures in winter occasionally
dropped to as low as -8 degrees and a mechanical watch ceased to work.
And the ability to think diminished too. What still stays in my memory
of my observing days in the 1950s in Kochi City are the extreme cold and
indescribable beauty of the stars, and the fruitless, futile 10 years.
C/1953 G1 (Mrkos-Honda)
03h30m on April 17, 1953 (J.S.T.)
8cm astro camera
Photographed by Minoru Honda
Copyright © 2010 Tsutomu Seki.