From my recent diary

2003   2004  2005  2006



Tue Dec 18

This month I could spend only 25 minutes for comet hunting. For one thing I had been very busy, and for another the weather had bee nasty; this is norm in this area in winter. Tables below are weekly weather forecast in my town and
Hamamatsu, Shizuoka, where the great comet hunter Kaoru Ikeya lives. This weather distribution is typical in winter, that is, rainy or snowy on the Japan Sea side and dry and fine on the Pacific side, e.g. Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka, where big cities and population are concentrated.

Most Japanese comet hunters also live on the Pacific side, but it means that light pollution too is more serious than on the Japan Sea side. Besides the light pollution, however, bad weather does not necessarily imply that hunters on the Japan Sea side are under worse conditions. Syogo Utsumoniya lives in mountainous region in Kyushu Island, and he said on the latest issue of Tenmon Guide Magazine that he can comet hunt only 20 to 30 days annually at his site due to bad weather. Less than half of my site! He states that he is able to continue comet searching since chance of comet hunting is low. I agree with him: if I would be blessed with so many clear days, I might be exhausted and might stop hunting. In many cases adversity gives energy and concentration.

Weekly Forecast
My town, Tohkamachi area, Niigata
Thr. 20
Fri. 21 Sat. 22 Sun. 23 Mon 24 Tue. 25
Weather ܎XJ






Temp. Max/Min (deg. C)
Chance of rain (%) 80 70 40 50 50 40

Hamamatsu, Shizuoka





Temp. Max/Min (deg. C) 14
Chance of rain (%) 10 10 30 50 20 30
 (c) Yahoo! Japan.

Sat Dec 1

I met Mr. Gen-ichi Araki, a discoverer of Comet IRAS-Araki-Alcok (
C/1983 H1), for the first time in Niigata city. Both of us were invited by Niigata Tenmon Kenkyu-kai (Niigata Astronomy Research Association) to to give lectures as comet discoverers in Niigata Prefecture (Please refer to the diary September 21). He is a cheerful junior high school teacher of science, and I had an impression that he must be very popular among his students.

Gen-ichi Araki

Photos: S. Murakami

Gen-ichi Araki is giving a lecture.

Araki brought his small comet seeker used his discovery.
Pentax 300 mm F4 lens and Takahashi Er 32 mm.

His talk was entitled "What's this?" that is the word he himself said when he spotted his comet, since there was no such object
with large apparent diameter (7th magnitude 10') in his memory at the position. He said he could not have discovered the comet if his student would not have called him (he got drunk and slept!) that made him awake at night: his discovery was made at midnight after the phone call. At that time he owned a home-made 15 cm reflector and a small refractor, actually not a telescope but a camera lens, Pentax 300 mm F4 lens with Takahashi Er 32 mm eyepiece. He was searching the sky from inside his house through a window and spotted the comet with the small one. Chances are you can still discover a bright comet like C/1983 H1 using a small telescope, because 17P Holmes got brighter by some 15 magnitude within less than one day!

His current comet seeker is Fujinon 25x150 binocular but his does not install a digital setting circles. He said to identify deep sky objects one by one referring a sky atlas is a joy. I thought the sky at his observing site is very dark as he lives in Sado Island but he answered no. Squid boats made operations throughout a year at night they are heavy source of light pollution when they come near his site.

I am giving a presentation.

Photos by Niigata Tenmon Kenkyu-kai

I reply questions from the floor. Right Araki; left HK.

My talk entitled "What I have found via comet hunting" based on "Can comet hunters survive?" posted this web site. Most audience was general public, total number of attendees was about 60, and I heard some came from over Tokyo, 250 km away. I felt I was energized by Araki's warm personality and attentiveness of the audience.
 I appreciated the host organizers for their announcement activities and on site arrangements.

Tue Nov 20

As often happens, I wake up 10 minutes before ringing an alarm clock at 2:50 a.m. Stars were twinkling among the tiny gaps of the cloud, a large part of the heavens was covered with cloud, and  I went back to the bed. However, I could not fall asleep and got up again. I turned on my PC to check the satellite image of cloud, but  it was difficult to predict the cloud condition based on the image. I checked the sky many times, and finally at 3:40 a.m. it became cloudless.

Transparency seemed to be moderate, and I started comet hunting from the northern part of  Coma Verenices as eastern and southern sky was cloudy, though I expected to catch quite a few of galaxies in this region. The first galaxy I identified was NGC4565, an edge on galaxy. I could identify this object without using the SkyVector due to its unique form. At this time I noticed the image of the galaxy was inconspicuous. I trained my comet-seeker northward as I wondered there was thin cloud near the galaxy that was extended from eastern and southern, but this speculation was wrong. At a glance the sky was moderately transparent, but actually very thin cloud covered all over the sky. The next object I identified was NGC5466, a globular cluster in Bootes. Though I would never overlook this 9th magnitude globular cluster even under such poor sky condition
.There is a big difference between today and last Saturday when the sky was crystal clear and I could caught 12th magnitude galaxies at an altitude as low as 10 degrees.

In the meanwhile all the eastern hemisphere sky was hidden by cloud, and I stopped comet searching and enjoyed observing 17P Holmes. This comet was close to
Mirphak, alpha  Persei. With my 46 cm 68x Mirphak was dazzling and hosts of  stars including Mirphak were observed in the coma that was still swelling and occupied well over half of the field of view! I also observed 8P Tuttle. This comet was quite difficult to observe under such poor transparency: I could manage to see it.

Throughout observing session of this predawn lightning flashed the sky and the field  in my comet-seeker. After the daybreak I looked into the location of the lightning via Internet: it was above the Sea of Japan, some 100 km from the observing site! Even so, the sky got very clear in the morning.

Thu Nov 8

Last evening I stared comet hunting from
the summer constellation, Sagittarius, and moved into Capricornus where there are several globular clusters. I slept in my car, and drew a sketch of 17P Holmes again before the start of the predawn hunting session.

After that I swept Ursa Major and Canes Venatici. One
globular cluster, M3, and twenty galaxies that have various kind of forms, elongated, diffused, with companions or with bright cores, crossed the field of my comet seeker. As transparency was pretty good, some of them included nearly 13th magnitude.

I employed 15x110 binocular for comet hunting for 20 minutes from the beginning of the twilight that aimed at a bright new comet near the horizon. The binocular has a field of view of 6 degrees that made it possible to search wide area for a short time.

Mon Oct 29

Last Thursday at before 8 a.m. I have read an email that said 17P Holmes made an outburst and was as bright as 7th magnitude. The email was sent on Wednesday night via OAA comet ML (in Japanese) by Masayuki Suzuki, but I went to bed early on Wednesday and did not know until next morning: I comet hunted on Thursday predawn, however, I did not notice what happened at Perseus.

My impression of 17P Holmes

Thursday, Oct 25
dusk it was 2nd magnitude! I observed with a 50x8 binocular and my 46 cm comet seeker. Off course, the comet was easily observable by naked eyes under the moonlight. It looked stellar with naked eyes. I noticed it had apparent diameter and yellowish with the binocular. With 46 cm 68x it looked a planetary nebula with a bright central star. The diameter was 1.4', and a fan shaped tail (or a jet?) with 0.2' in length was observed. The comet looked darker using Lumicon Comet filter, which means the comet is dust rich.

Sunday, Oct 28
Surprisingly, the comet has expanded more than four times for three days, the diameter was  6', and got brighter. I recognized that it was non stellar with naked eyes in spite of bright moonlight. With 46cm it looked like a large planetary nebula and the fan like tail became more prominent.  I drew a sketch with 46 cm 170x.

Brightness observation is here.

San Oct 14

C/2007 T1 McNaught was discovered on Oct 9 UT with the magnitude of 12th. Today, I checked the position of the discovery, and noticed it was surely within the area I searched at dusk on October 6 (see diary on October 6). My record read that I caught M10, M107, M14, and M9 in this order with some other deep sky objects, which means C/2007 T1 was included in the search area (refer to the atlas below). I might overlook 9.5th magnitude globular cluster, NGC6366, since I cannot find this cluster in my daybook now, but I detected 11th galaxy, NGC6384 (not included in the atlas below).

The altitude of C/2007 T1 was 30 degrees at 7 p.m. on October 6, and the transparency was pretty good at that time. Even so, I guess it was not easy to spot this 12th magnitude comet because of light pollution.

This predawn I got up at 2:50 a.m. but it was cloudy. I glanced at the sky again at 3:40 a.m., and stars were shining near the zenith but eastern sky was cloudy. I waited until 4:00 a.m. but the situation became worse.

The position of discovery C/2007 T1 McNaught (upper center) was within my search area during the comet hunting session on Oct 6.

Sun Oct 7

At 2:20 a.m. in my car, it was hard to get up. I should have turned in earlier last night.

I felt like searching Leo this predawn also, but it was in the cloud. The only cloud less area was southeast, and I comet hunted from east of Sirius. Hosts of open clusters sparkled in the space. First off, NGC2360 was vivid and impressive! They all looked like fireworks, and each has uniqueness. Besides open clusters, I caught two reflection nebulae NGC2467 and 2359, and 2438 (planetary nebula in M46).

Until the daybreak cloud above the eastern horizon was stagnant, but there appeared some gaps in it. I tried to observe C/2007 F1 LONEOS again. Using the Sky Vector the comet was easily introduced in the field. Bright! By intuition it was 6th magnitude but could not be observed by 8x50 binocular.

Sat Oct 6

At 2:10 a.m. a half an hour before ringing the alarm clock I woke up. Half of the heavens, especially eastern sky was covered with cloud, and I hesitated if I should go out. Ten minutes later, the area of the starry sky expanded, and I decided to conduct a searching session.

I wanted to search the constellation of Leo, however, he was hidden by cloud. I was forced to search the northeastern sky where I identified several galaxies.

After half an hour the sky got crystal clear, and Leo appeared. He tries to catch the crescent moon that is in Cancer where I stared from the latter half of the session. Soon after M44, the Beehive cluster came into the field of my telescope. I was dazzled by a dozen of stars, and I heard the bees buzzing in my mind!

I caught NGC2903, some 10 degrees from the moon, M96, M105 and NGC3384, but could not the other major galaxies in the constellation. I also tried to observe C/2007 F1 LONEOS: the comet was less the 10 degrees in altitude and was hidden by the woods.

I arrived at one of the best my observing sites after one hour drive at 6 p.m. I ate a quick supper-box, assembled my comet seeker, and began to comet hunt at 6:45p.m. Serpens and Ophiuchus are the target area. I identified 7 globular clusters and one galaxy, NGC6356 NGC6384 (revised on Oct 14). All the globular clusters did not well dissolved due to poor scintillation.

I planed to go to bed before 8:30 p.m. in my car for the next predawn activity, but as a result it was a quarter past 9 p.m. since I enjoyed deep sky watching after the comet hunting session for more than 30 minutes.

Fri Sep 21

Last week the weather report had been off the mark. Every evening the coming dayfs forecast suddenly changed from cloudy to fine, and I was forced to get up before daybreak! The fine day trend had continued throughout this week, and I could enjoy comet hunting six times out of nine times rising at predawn, though not all the sessions were conducted under prefect clear sky.

This daybreak the sky has been crystal clear, though it was slightly worse than that of yesterday and the day before yesterday on which I observed M33 by my naked eyes with direct vision! I started with the constellation of Lepus and completed at some 10 degrees east of Sirius. Deep sky objects (except open clusters) that I identified were M79, NGC2090, 1832, 1843, 1964, 2196, and 2207. I wondered if it could be a new comet when I came across NGC1843 that is 2.4 degrees south of Beta Orionis, Rigel, since I did not know there is a galaxy in this constellation. This object was easily identified using the Sky Vector, and it said the magnitude is 12.6. Apparently this is the first time that I observe this galaxy.

By the way, I accidentally noticed that the Sky Vector can identify all the objects in the list if you use eIdentify modef by setting magnitude to the darkest, 15th. So, what I wrote in the last diary 'Identify mode does not work without brightness dataf was based on my misunderstanding.

I have overlooked some brighter galaxies than NGC1843
that were within my search area, but I do not know the cause. I also overlooked a planetary nebulae with small apparent diameter IC418. I was deep in the galaxyfs world during my former half of the session in the western part of the searching area, mainly in Lepus and Columba.

In the latter half of the comet searching session I moved on to the Milky Way region, Monoceros, Canis Major, and Puppis where hosts of stars and open clusters came into the field. At daybreak I observed zodiacal light, our solar system phenomenon, which rose from Leo and crossed the Milky Way at Gemini in the east. From west to east I could enjoy 3D space: Extra-galacitc, our galactic and our solar system objects.

  Leaflet of the lecture, Japanese only. Revised on Oct 11.
Click to enlarge.

Mr. K. H, a nova hunter, organizes a lecture meeting by Gen-ichi Araki, a discoverer of C/1983 H1 IRAS-Araki-Alcock, and me on Saturday Decenber 1st in Niigata city. I anticipate meeting with Mr. Araki and giving the lecture to people in the city. He made a poster on the talk.

Sun Sep 9

Thirty minutes before the alarm clock beep, at 1:50 a.m. I wake up and looked at the sky. Cloudy but there appeared some stars among the gaps in cloud. Again I got up at 2:10 a.m. and the sky was completely clear this time!

I went out and started to prepare the comet hunting session. In the mean time cloud covered the whole the sky again. I believed the recovery and waited for in my car. At 3:05 a.m. as I expected imposing winter constellations appeared in the eastern sky, and I began to search from Betelgeuse. In this season I cannot help worrying about Sungrazing comets, and I plan to cover the ephemeris. The first nebula I detected this predawn was NGC2245, a reflection nebula in Monocerous, which has comet like shape. You cannot identify most reflection nebulae using the Sky Vector due to its indeterminable brightness (no brightness data for the reflection nebulae were in the gadget and 'Identify mode' does not work without them), though those nebulae are in the catalogue of the device. NGC2245 was one of them, and I identified by the Uranometoria 2000.

While I was turning the pages of the sky atlas at 3:30 a.m., suddenly it became humid and I was clouded out again. I was in my car with patience, and at the beginning of the twilight, 3:50 a.m., stars began to shine in the sky. I resumed comet hunting from NGC2245, and soon an elusive object came into the field. It could not be identified with the Sky Vector, and I felt quantity of adrenaline increased. According to the coordinate that the Sky Vector showed I turned the pages of the Uranometoria again. It turned out to be NGC2261, Hubblefs variable nebula. My impression of this nebula was bright and comet like shape with a fan like tail, but this time it has round shape and was very dark: 12 th magnitude. Literally, this nebula varies its shape and brightness.

The crescent moon with earthlight and Venus were on the eastern horizon at daybreak, and I trained my comet seeker on them before disassembling. Their shapes are similar!

Thu Aug 16

Awesome! The sky is as clear as crystal! When I arrived at the observing site after 20 minutes drive, I could observe the gegenschein around the tail of Capricornus with my naked eyes. I confirmed the position at my house later, and it was 180 degrees opposite side of the sun: there is no doubt that it is the counter glow. This time I set up the Russian made 15x110 mm binocular as well as the main instrument of the 46 cm comet seeker. Preparing the binocular requires extra five minutes and is a hard work since the weight of the core part is over 20 kg. I seldom employ this instrument but it is worth using.

This is the seventh comet hunting session this moth, and this number is already the monthly record of this year.

Under the sky full of stars I wondered where I should search this predawn; north or south? I decided to begin with the southern sky to enjoy a galaxy hopping. I swept in the south from the constellation of Cetus to the river Eridanus, and down to Fornax. There are hosts of faint galaxies in this region, and actually I identified more than two dozens of them during one hour and ten minutes.

With the help of superb transparency I sometimes caught several galaxies in the same field of view, ex. NGC833, 835, 838, 839, and IC210 that is not included in the list of the SkyVector. Some of them are as dark as 13th magnitude. I checked IC210 using the Uranometoria 2000, but before opening the sky atlas I supposed that it was a galaxy judging from its elongated shape. On the other hand, I overlooked some 11th or 12th magnitude galaxies; it is probably due to low surface brightness (cf. Diary of November 4, 2006).

From right to left: NGC833, 835, 838, and 839.
The field size is 15f wide.
The Digitized Sky Survey copyright  (c) 1994

Eleventh magnitude galaxy, NGC1042 was comet-like with diffused image, which has low surface brightness compared with the other galaxies, i.e. 10th magnitude of NGC1052 and 12th magnitude of NGC1035.

NGC1042 (lower left), 1052 (upper left), and 1035 (upper right)
The field size is 30f wide.
The Digitized Sky Survey copyright (c) 1994

The big binocular worked only 10 minutes during the twilight and detected no comet like objects. I tried to catch M78 with the binocular and it had enough power to detect the nebula in the twilight.

Sirius was bright on the eastern horizon after the session. I was satisfied with steeping in deep space.

Thu Aug 9 to Sat Aug 11

I got up at the wee hours a couple of times this week but the sky was covered with cloud. Finally, Thursday predawn the sky was clear and I mainly searched for the constellations of Cetus, Eridanus and Taurus. I missed detecting no comet-like objects this time due to the crescent moon light and poor transparency caused by moisture. Around two weeks ago, before the daybreak of July 24th I could identify more than 20 galaxies in Cetus under excellent transparency, many of which were 12th magnitude, though I did not post the report on this page. It was enjoyable!

To identify comet-like objects is sometimes exciting as they have the possibility that they include a new comet or otherwise you can enjoy these objects
via the identifying process per se, though too many of them are tedious. To the contrary if you cannot catch any nebulae, star clusters, and known comets during a comet hunting session, it is also boring. This time what I enjoyed during the hunting session was artificial satellites and shooting stars that crossed the telescope field: of course, I like comet-like objects better. I wonder if the meteors belonged to Perseid that was already active. When I stopped the hunting session, the great constellation Orion rose above the horizon and I noticed that autumn insects sang a song instead of frogs in the field: I felt the turning of the seasons.

The transparency of the sky was worse than in yesterday with small amount of cloud at 1:20 a.m., and I hesitated whether I should conduct a comet hunting session. At the next moment I decided to go to the 20 minutes-dive observing site rather than doing comet hunt near my house. I thought low light pollution at the site might compensate for poor transparency.

Only 10 minutes after the start of the session cloud began to cover the sky and I was forced to stop hunting. After a half hourfs pause there appeared a gap in the cloud at the sky near the North Pole and I resumed searching. At 3:25 a.m., some 15 minutes after the start of the twilight, I was clouded out again. Ten minutes after, when I was disassembling my telescope, the sky turned into clear with high transparency! Eastern sky was bright but the arc of Milky Way was still very impressive. After a half hour, when I arrived at my house it was cloudy again. How capricious the weather was!

The alarm clock was set at 1:20 a.m. but I wake up at 0:40 a.m. Transparency was poor and I went to bed. I got up at 1:20 a.m. again but the situation was unchanged. Consecutive sunny weather for several days made transparency worse, and I guess the condition would continue till we have a shower.

Wed Aug 1

Officially this yearfs rainy season has finished today, and it has been clear sky from yesterday evening. Unfortunately, however, it was full moon on Monday, and today the moon of 17 days old rises 20 minute before the end of the twilight. Even so, I went to comet hunting at dusk.

Actually, what I worried about more than that was weather: Typhoon number 5 is approaching to western Japan, and its cloud extended near my city. I knew that the northern edge of the cloud might cover my city before I leave home via satellite image, and in fact thin cloud began to spread over the sky just after I started searching in the twilight at 8 p.m. (see the photo below). I stopped comet hunting in only 15 minutes but before disassembling my telescope, luckily I could observe C/2006 VZ13 LINEAR through thin cloud. It has some 5f in diameter with DC of 5 but the brightness was difficult to estimate even intuitively due to the cloud.

8:00 p.m. Japan Standard Time
Aug 1, 2007 (C)Japan Meteorological Agency

The typhoon is not expected to approach my town, Tohkamachi, and after passing it we can anticipate clear sky.

Tue 17 Jul

Strong earthquake with Richter magnitude 6.8 struck Niigata Prefecture again on Monday: up to now nine died, over 1,000 were injured and some 10,000 are forced to evacuate. We experienced the same magnitude of seismic activity in October 2004 that damaged seriously my town also due to being near the epicenter, with 67 fatalities, 4,800 injured, and evacuees of more than 100,000. I myself was hit by the earthquake and evacuated three years ago.

This time the epicenter is in the Sea of Japan, around 30 km away from my town, and there seemed to be little damage in my town. I watched TV that reported the scene and remembered the same situation that occurred three years ago. I wonder if the same magnitude of earthquake occurs in big cities like Tokyo: it actually did in 1995 in Kobe and over 6,400 were killed. In Tokyo, the situation must be much worse.

No one can stop the development and increase in population in metropolitan areas. We built the big cities as a result of our advancement which are the symbol of our prosperity. However, the difference in numbers of the dead between Kobe and Niigata, rural area, exposes the drawback in overpopulated cites.

Many people still remember the beauty of stars at the night of earthquake in 2004 when all the light was off in the area because of power failure. Many could nothing but go outside to evacuate due to fear for collapse of any buildings by aftershocks. Stars were impressive for everyone, I think, because that is what we can rely on ultimately.

Thu 12 Jul

There were no starry nights this month up to now. Even if the sky was clear in daytime it never fails to be cloudy at night: to satisfy myself I got up hopeful predawn a couple of times.

I heard from Kazuya Hatayama, a nova hunter, who lives in Niigata City, some 120 km away from my home. He said he has a plan to organize a joint lecture by Gen-ichi Araki, a discoverer of C/1983 H1 IRAS-Araki-Alcock, and me on Saturday 1 December this year in Niigata City, and I accepted his proposal. Araki is a habitant of Sado Island, about 50 km west of Niigata City.

The expected audience is the general public and members of Niigata Astronomy Research Club that Hatayama belongs to. I am anticipating meeting with Araki, but giving the lecture for the public is more difficult than do for astronomers.

Hatayama expected me to tell the audience the splendor of discovering new objects. It really is, but the reason I do comet hunting is I love to it, and it sometimes is a sacred ceremony for me. Talking about what you love and holiness is as challenging as describing the reason for loving your lover and for having faith in your religion, respectively. I have to know and analyze myself, and must describe what I have in mind gracefully to deliver a successful lecture. Otherwise, people do not understand why I continue to searching and may feel that it is folly to get up at 1 a.m. with a fat chance of being clear sky in addition to a slim chance of discovery.

It has been gloomy weather day in and day out this time of the year, the rainy season. Now, a typhoon is approaching to Okinawa, subtropical islands of Japan, though it does not come near the area I live. What if would it pass through my town? Do I get up predawn like Ikeya did in 1965? Probably yes, as I know he discovered the Great Comet, Ikeya-Seki, when his city was at the center of the typhoon: Ikeya discovered the comet when he was in the eye of the typhoon. You have to keep an eye on the changes in weather whatever it is now.

Sat Jun 23-Sun Jun 24

I wake up Monday and Tuesday this week to try to comet hunt but cloudy, though the forecast predicted clear sky. The chance of fine days seems rather low this year.

Saturday evening  I received an email from Wentao Xu, Guangzhou, China, that said a possible SWAN comet reported by Rob Matson was waiting for a ground based observation. The details including the ephemeries were in the comet-ml group. I am not a member of the mailing list since I do not want to  receive many emails. The sky was clear at that time but the meteorological satellite image displayed some scattering cloud near my town. Anyway, I headed  for a observing site.

Unfortunately and as is often the case, I was overcastted when I was assembling my telescope. I waited for a while, however, the situation  remained unchanged. I failed to confirm the comet and went to bed in my car.

On Sunday I wake up at midnight, 0:35 a.m. 20 minutes before the alarm rung. The sky was clear except southwest but again cloudy weather prevailed with time. First, I tried to observe C/2006 VZ13 LINEAR and I trained my comet seeker at the position with the Sky Vector but no comet like object was in the field. I checked the position using the Uranometria 2000 and it was correct. Actually, I failed to print out a finding chart due to lack of time when I left home, instead I made a note of the position; I did not intend to observe brightness of the comet this time. I might write the positon incorrectly on the paper or the comet fade rapidly; the latter seldom happens because the comet is approaching the perihelion. I gave up to observe  C/2006 VZ13 and after I got home I noticed that I made a mistake; the position I noted was that of June 23 instead of June 24. You have to be more meticulous.

The comet hunting session was frustrating this predawn. The middle level clouds came in and out rapidly and I had to aim the telescope at the gap of the cloud. I could not search steadily and sometimes I could not but take some breaks when it was overcast.

The comet-ml group posted some negative observations on the possible SWAN comet. The latest positioning data by the SWAN was June 17, a week ago. It might become dark without spotted by comet hunters as it was at high Declination.

Sat Jun 16- Sun Jun 17

I comet hunted after three weeksf absence. I tried to do at least a few times this month, i.e. woke up around 1 a.m., but the weather report were off the mark all the predawn. The forecast predicts fine days will last until Wednesday, though usually we are in the rainy season at this time of the year.

In Saturday evening I arrived at one of the best observing sites after one hour drive from my house. The thin crescent moon that was about to set into the horizon was impressive. I was ready to comet hunt at 8:40 p.m. twenty minutes before the end of the twilight. I began to sweep the western sky but there appeared cloud and it covered more than half of the sky, especially west. As cloud moved I aimed my 18 inch comet seeker at one place to another to avid cloud. The galaxies spotted during the hunting looked one order of magnitude brighter than those observed near my house due to lesser light pollution at this site.

I could have enjoyed longer hunting session but ended it at 9:05 p.m.; I had decided to go to bed before 9:30 p.m. to get enough sleep in my car and to start predawn comet hunting session at around 1:00 a.m.

Five minutes before 1 a.m. an alarm woke me up. The sky was clear and Milky Way was gorgeous! Fist, I observed two comets, C/2007 E2 Lovejoy and C/2006 VZ13 LINEAR. Although a 14th magnitude star was in the field, I could not recognized C/2007 E2 with 68x and did not even change the eyepiece to get higher magnification that might enable to reveal the comet. C/2006 VZ13 was bright, about 11th magnitude, and this is the first time to observe this comet.

Then, I spent one minute to enjoy Milky Way with a small binocular that I bought three weeks ago, Super-View 4x22/17degrees. As it covers wade area, the impression of the star field using this binocular is special; the image in the field is similar to naked eyes but you can see much darker stars.

Super-View 4x22/17degrees. Dealer: Kasai Trading

I comet searched for one hour and forty minutes but transparency became worse than in last dusk. Among several galaxies I caught during the session in Pegasus, Pisces, and Aries only M74 had comet like appearance and others looked just like as they are.

Sat May 27

It was raining at 9 p.m. last night but I believed clear sky of the coming predawn judging from the forecast and the satellite image that showed large clear area approaching from the west of  my region. At 1 a.m. I got up and looked at outside: there were some pieces of cloud but the sky condition was moderate. Good!

I went out and began to assemble my telescope. Wind was rather strong and a few minutes after the starting of the comet hunting session I felt cold. I wore thin down jacket and I changed the jacket into a heavy down coat. After one quarter or so, it became calm and this time it was too warm. Again I changed the coat into the jacket. By this time cloud has completely disappeared. I could enjoy comfortable hunting with high seed.

A comet hunting session of this predawn started from M22 of the southern sky since I have swept whole the sky up to +60 degrees north this month. I caught 8 deep sky objects by the end of the session and all were globular clusters: M22, M70, M54, NGC6723, M55, M75, M72, and M30. I completed the session at 3:35 a.m., 55 minutes before the sunrise, till then I continued to search hoping that there might be a bright comet near the horizon. In daytime the visibility got very bad due to bai, that is yellow fine sand from Chinese desert. It has not reached my town when I comet hunted.

Fri May 18

As the twilight begins before 3 a.m. I have to get up at 1 a.m. at latest to comet hunt for more than one hour. I set the alarm clock at 1 a.m. but could awake at 12:50 p.m. Half of the sky was covered with cloud but transparency was pretty good, and I did not hesitate to go out. While I was assembling my 18 inch comet seeker the amount of cloud reduced, though there were still some pieces of cloud that moved slowly. On Wednesday the situation was completely opposite. When I got up there were no cloud in the sky but I was clouded out for an hour just after the completion of assembling my telescope. After 60 minutes patience I comet searched only 40 minutes at that time.

To begin with at 1:45 a.m. I observed C/2007 E2 Lovejoy. This comet became darker down to 11 th magnitude with degree of concentration of 2, and the coma looked elongated; it did not seem to be a tail with 68x. Then, I tried to observe 96P Machholz
. I could not detect this comet with 68x but did not use high magnification by changing the eyepiece since I did not want to spend much time for observation. I prefer to spend time for comet hunting.

Comet hunting session of this predawn was started from the position of 96P following the above mentioned observation. I expected that some dark galaxies would be detected during the session, however, non of  them entered into my field of view. One reason is that thin and/or some pieces of cloud passed by the region that I sought, the quadrangle of Pegasus. Another is that the candidates, NGC7479, 7814, 7741, are too dark to be caught; all of them are darker than the magnitude of 11.5. NGC 7331 that was too high in elevation was out of the range this time. Anyway, I spent one hour and forty minutes for comet hunting session and covered horizontal angle of 53 degrees (elongation from 96P measured by the Sky Vector) and some 40 degrees vertically, but I missed not to caught any galaxies.

Fri Apr 27

This is the fourth time I got up at predawn this week, and finally I could meet with clear sky. I was fed up with cloudy and sleepy days. Today, transparency was exceptional and the brightness of Jupiter that I saw from the window was impressive, though scintillation was very bad.

As the dawn becomes early, and
I tend to run short of sleep this season, I conducted comet hunting in front of my residence to save time. C/2007 E2 Lovejoy was high in the sky and bright. The tail was apparent but was short. After I observed C/2007 E2 I began to seweet the sky at 2:25 a.m. Ten minutes after the beginning of the twilight at 3:30a.m., I observed 96P Mchholz for the first time (10 th magnitude). The nuclear was bright and I never fail to miss the image like this during usual comet searching session. I could even noticed the tail of the comet. After I glanced at 96P I resumed usual comet hunting session, however, I missed the comet when I passed through it 25 minutes after the beginning of the twilight. I went back to the position of the comet using the Sky Vector and I could grasp it with care.

In the OAA comet mailing list, Seki reported that he could not detect 96P unless he moved his telescope (20 cm 60x) extremely slowly paying close attention. Our differences in the detectivity for 96P is attributed to the aperture difference.

San Apr 1

C/2007 E2 Lovejoy would have been about to discovered on the same day of the Lovejoy's discovery by an Australian comet hunter, Richard Brown, with whom I began to exchange e-mails since last autumn.

In the predawn of Thursday March 15 (16 UT) he comet hunted using LX200R 10h, Ritchey-Chretien telescope, and spotted fuzzy object near Eta Arae that was not on the Meade Autostar atlas. He described his heart rate skyrocketed at that time. He made a quick sketch and got online to the Digital sky survey: it turned out to be a small galaxy. He emiled me this exciting story on the same day. After he knew Lovejoy's discovery he checked the coordinates. It was just near eta Indus where he run through after his thrilling experience, and only about 5 minutes out of his field of view!!! He said, "Although I did not sight it, I was a whisker away!"

He started comet hunting in his teens but, with little guidance and no success, gave it away for many years.
Now, he is a scientist (immunology and psychology) and resumed comet hunting encouraged by my web page and Tsutomu Seki's word that I refereed to: "Strong rivals exist at any era and only comet hunters who fight bravely and attack openly are crowned with victory".

His saying is still alive and carries weight, and Mr. Seki observed C/2007 E2 on Mar 25.83UT for the first time in Japan as far as I know.
I will meet with Mr. Seki for the first time next Saturday at the 37th Comet Conference that I chair, and we will have a talk show on comet hunting. How exciting!

Sun Mar 18

Terry Lovejoy (Australia)@discovered a new comet C/2007 E2 using Canon 350D  + 200-mm f/2.8, however, the comet was bright enough to be spotted by visual comet hunting (9th magnitude). This must be the first comet discovery by a digital camera. Hirohisa Sato pointed out that the orbit of this comet resemble that of C/1742 C1,  although the orbit has not yet been well determined due to lack of observation.

Akihiko Tago discovered a bright nova in Cygnus on March 15 UT. Yuji Nakamura and Yukio Sakurai discovered a bright nova in Scorpius on February 4, and
Yuji Nakamura and Hideo Nishimura did another nova in the same constellation on February 19 UT and 20 UT, respectively. Some of them were  used digital cameras, and Tago, Nakamura and Nishimura are comet discoverers: I guess someone will discover a new comet using digital cameras or CCD in Japan.

Fri Mar 16

In contrast to the last month, it has been cloudy or snowy this month. It is as if March were replaced by February.

The forecast
predicted clear sky for this predawn and I expected to conduct a comet hunting session for the first time this month. I set an alarm at 2:20 a.m. but awake up a quarter past 2 a.m. I felt the air cool, it implied starry sky. Actually, it was! The transparency was less than average, however, there were no cloud in the sky. On top of that, according to the meteorological data at 2 a.m. that  I obtained via Internet, wind near the observing site was gentle though temperature was rather low, -4 degrees in Celsius.

I drove around 20 minutes to arrived at the observing site. Cloud appeared on the eastern horizon and began to expand. When I finished to assemble my telescope, eastern half of the sky was almost screened by cloud; the only gap in the eastern half of the sky except zenith was near Scorpius and I started comet searching from the constellation. In five minutes,
Scorpius was also hidden by cloud and I was forced to stop comet hunting. I took a rest in my car for half hour: again a cloud gas opened around Scorpius but the gap closed in a few minutes. I repeated such frustrated action and could comet hunt for
only 20 minutes.

It is predicted that snowy weather will last for a coming week.

Tue Feb 27

At 2:30 a.m. I got up and turned on PC: the display indicated that the usual observing site was windy. I decided to comet hunt in front of my house without hesitation. Moonset was at 3:29 a.m. and it was too early to assemble my 18 inch telescope soon. I had a cup of hot drink, relaxed and went to out before 3 a.m.

This time I began to search from Alpha Librae and soon after that a large globular cluster, NGC5897, came into the field. The next guest was NGC5861, a 12th magnitude galaxy. There are some galaxies around here, but from Scorpius almost all the deep sky objects that came into the field were globular clusters. Just before I caught M80, a contrast of the sky became bad suddenly: a ski field switched on the light for the skiers for the morning ski! I could not observe faint nebulae any more.

Even so, I had been busy to identify comet like objects: there were some impressive objects among those. When Jupiter was in the field, I noticed a comet like object that was in the same field with Jupiter. At a glance, apparently, it was not a ghost image. The digital setting circle told me that it was NGC 6287, a globular cluster. That reminded me of the "independent discovery" of C/2006 T6 Levy last October that was spotted near Saturn. I also identified two planetary nebulae, NGC6396 and 6445. I  have spotted the latter many times and is impressive because a globular cluster NGC6440 that is 20' apart from NGC6445 is in the same field.

NGC6440(lower, globular cluster) and  NGC6445(top, planetary nebula)  30 arc minutes square
The Digitized Sky Survey copyright © 1994

In contrast to Sunday, February 25, I was quite satisfied with the comet hunting session under the gentle wind.
This is the sixth comet hunting session  this month.

Mon Feb 26

I did not get up this predawn as the forecast predicted cloudiness. Actually, the sky was clear when I saw outside at 6:30 a.m. It had been clear since midnight but even if I had set an alarm, I would not have gotten up due to fatigue. Still, I was not recover from exhaustion.

Sun Feb 25

At 2:30 a.m.,
before I left home I checked the wind speed near the usual observing site via Internet. The wind was weak at 2 a.m. and transparency was excellent! I knew the temperature was quite low this predawn but the searching session must be comfortable without wind.

At the observing site at 3:15 a.m. the sky was extremely clear and I could observe the counterglow at the constellation of Leo with naked eyes! I began to comet hunt from Beta Cygni,
Albireo. It was very impressive! I wondered if I have ever observed such a beautiful Albireo. Soon after the beginning wind became stronger. It robbed me of  not only my body temperature but concentration. Besides the Messier Objects, M56 and M57, I detected NGC6688 (a galaxy in Lyra, mag. 12.6), NGC6992 (the Veil Nebula), and NGC6914A-B that was not identified by a search mode of the digital setting circles. Even though I could catch some dark nebulae, I wondered if  I could catch all the faint comet like objects because I could not concentrate on the hunting due to strong wind. I could not predict such strong wind from the weather chart and it must be orographic wind.

Air temperate was -8 degrees in Celsius that was the lowest record this winter, and strong wind. I spent one hour and fifty five minutes for comet hunting and was exhausted without satisfaction. It must be much better to comet hunt near my house where light polluted but
wind is weak.

Sat Feb 17

An alarm rang at 2:45 a.m. and I got up to check the weather. It was cloudy with some small gaps in a sea of clouds. I went back to my bed and set the alarm at 3:15 a.m. I
n Friday evening the forecast predicted it would be cloudy until 3:00 a.m. and would be clear after that. I believed and hoped so and made up my mind to get up every 30 minutes before the beginning of the twilight: I was frustrated and longed to comet hunt because I could not due to nasty weather and  moonlight since January 30.

At 3:15a.m. the forecast was coming true! Starry sky began to spread from the west and more than half of the sky was clear. I went out and assembled the telescope in front of my residence. I could not afford to drive to the usual observing site since there left less than two hours before the beginning of the twilight and I did not wand to consume time.

It was a bit foggy at the lower part of the sky and transparency was less than average. As I went on sweeping the sky contrast in the telescope field was getting higher and a star looked pinpoint. I enjoyed space walk in the summer Milky Way, which for me was accompanied by some music. A symphony was played in my mind, this time
it was Beethoven.

Air temperature was -4 degrees in Celsius but I did not feel cold being protected by a down jacket and a portable chemical body warmer on my tiptoes. I enjoyed the symphony with comfort but after the comet hunting session I found frost was formed even on the shoulders of my jacket not to mention on a telescope should.

At noon as the weather forecast said the sky was completely covered with cloud. How lucky, happy and satisfied I am.

Tue Jan 30

As the weather forecast said it was fair with small amount of cloud when I got up. I checked the wind speed near my observing site with the internet
before I drove to the site. The data is provided by Japan Meteorology Agency. Sometimes strong wind prevents smooth motion of my telescope and if it  happens  at the usual observing site I would conduct comet hunting near my house. It was OK this predawn, the wind was weak near the site. However, I noticed the radar echo showd some snow cloud near the coastal area where several tens of km from the site.

Just after my arrival at the observing site, cloud began to cover the heaven. When I completed assembling my telescope, there left slight cloud gaps in the sky. I began to comet search along the gap but 15 minutes after whole the sky was covered with cloud. Even worse it began to snow! I covered my scope with a plastic sheet and snow began to accumulate on it. I believed the recovery of the weather and 30 minutes after it stopped snowing and the starry sky spread. It was the time after the twilight began.

I have never given up conducting comet  hunt and waited the weather recovery because the big one like C/2006 P1 McNaught might be waiting for my discovery. Finally, I could conduct 25 minutes hunting after that.

In coming April, I will chair the 37th Japanese Comet Conference near my town. The special lecture will be given by Tsutomu Seki. The web page is written in Japanese only but one of the applicants send us a superb photo of 
C/2006 P1 McNaught. Please visit the page!

Sun Jan 14

How lucky I am!  I could observe  -5 th magnitude comet,
C/2006 P1 McNaught this evening.

Many Japanese comet observers, most of them live in the Pacific Ocean side where the weather is fine with dry air in winter, reported their observation on C/2006 P1. As I live in the Japan Sea side, nasty weather continues in winter and it was difficult to observe the comet. Yesterday, I went to the Pacific Ocean side spending nearly two hours by car to observe the comet but sadly it was cloudy.

I gave up to observe the comet and went to skiing this morning. During the skiing blue sky opened for a moment and I searched the comet using 8x50 binocular in day time at the parking in the ski field. The sky looked blue but there were quite a few of snow flakes in the air that made it difficult to observe the comet. Consequently, I failed to spot the comet. At the sunset western sky looked bright and there opened a cloud gap. I searched the comet again and it was very easy to spot it this time! The comet was as bright as Venus with a tail of about 0.5 degrees in length at 4:55 p.m. Japan Standard Time (UT+9h). Actual brightness of the comet must be more than that of Venus, because sky background was much brighter near the comet and the altitude was lower.  I could also detect the comet with naked eyes. How impressive!

Thirty minutes later, when I arrived at home it was snowing in earnest. Luck evening.

Six minutes after the sunset at 4:55 p.m. the altitude of the comet was 2.4 degrees.

Fri Jan 5

I took two hours payed off and left my office at 3:30 p.m. to prepare comet hunting. I usually comet hunt only at predawn, especially in winter. However, I conduct a comet hunting session just after the full moon
when the sky is clear as Utsunomiya or Ikeya does. The time of moon rise was 6:16 p.m., while the end of the twilight was 6:12 p.m. I could comet seach less than one hour, if I would begin to 30 minutes before the end of the twilight and stop searching15 minutes after the moon rise.

Winter observing site for dusk is a narrow parking space where snow was removed away. Snow depth was only 0.3 m, though it was over 2 m this period last year. Snow wall does not intercept low altitude of the sky. I do not prefer comet hunting at dusk, because the sky conditon is worse than at predawn due to light pollution and the traffic is busy. However, the forecast said winter storm is appoaching and snowy weather would continue for a week. This is a precious clear sky.

The background in the telescope field looked rather bright and I used a light pollution filter, IDAS LPS-P2, which reduced background brightness and slightly improved S/N ratio. All the deep sky objects I could detected were NGC6934, a globular culuster in Delphinus, M15 and M2.

Just when a part of waning moon appeared above the horizon, whole the world was moonlit and I felt this was the end of today's comet hunting session. At the next moment I felt the beauty of the a moonlight night and the beginning of the whole new world. When you lose one thing, you will get another thing at the same time; sometimes it means the start of the new world.

When I disassembled the telescope, cloud began to spred over the sky.

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