From my recent diary

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Friday, December 14

I have been waiting for the clear sky, and finally the time has come. Though this was the second hunting session this month, the previous one was only 20 minutes because of the cloudiness during the session.

I was lucky enough to comet search at the night of the peak of Geminids. While I was setting up my comet-seeker, I saw several meteors, and I did additional one dozen of them during the session.

The air temperature was -5 degrees Celsius but it was calm and no frost condensed on my polar wear and the telescope. The transparency was not good at the low altitude, but was excellent near the zenith. I started the session from some 10 degrees south of Arcturus. Before the beginning of the session I felt the temptation to observe C/2012 F6 Lemon and C/2012 K5 LENEAR but I restrained to do, as I overslept slightly and did not have enough time to search.

NGC5746. The image size is 15f.
The Digitized Sky Survey copyright©1994

I knew that there are no bright nebulae in the area I swept, but unexpectedly four galaxies came into the FOV: NGC5566, 5638, 5746 and 5846. NGC5746 was impressive since it is very elongated with 9th magnitude star on the north- northeast.

The eastern sky at the time of twilight on Dec. 13 UT.

In many respects this session was gorgeous. A few meteors passed across the FOV in addition to naked observation, and M5 that looked like a splendid flower unexpectedly came into the FOV. When I finished the session, Spica, Saturn, Venus and Mercury welcomed me; however, disassembling the telescope another bright star appeared just above the horizon. It was Antares. Tsutomu Seki said cold reaches the peak the time when Scopus rises, and I realized that the midwinter is just around the corner.

Saturday, November 24

I have been in Cairns, Australia, last week and observed the total solar eclipse for the first time! It was great and looked ethereal. I also have observed Large and Small Magellanic Clouds for the first time.
When I visited Australia last time, the weather was abnormal and I just recognized the existence of LMC under the moonlight.
When I went to Jiaxing near Shanghai China to observe the total eclipse it rained heavily.
This time everything was fine!

Click here for details of the eclipse

Saturday, October 20 to Monday, October 22

There were many fine days in October and this was the sixth comet hunting session this month. I was happy to comet hunt three consecutive predawns. Among three seeeions, Saturday was the most impressive.

The moment when I was about to insert the primary mirror that weights 18 kg onto the mirror cell, the strong flash light was emitted from behind. Just after I set the mirror I looked up the sky. A liner shaped meteor trail with 1st magnitude some 10 degrees in length was shining at the foot of Orion. I could not see the meteor itself but I enjoyed watching the trail. It deformed into round shape and was visible over 3 minutes. It was Orionids. The page below said the meteor was -6th magnitude.

Prior to the session I observed 168P Hergenrother. The comet was more defused than I observed on October 9, but the impression of the tail with 3f in length was the same.

At 3:20am I started with hunting session from Regulus. The first nebula that came into the FOV was NGC3041, a 12th galaxy. Then, I identified 21 galaxies including major bright ones like NGC2903, M95, M96, M105, M65 and M66. Probably, the darkest one was NGC3248 with a magnitude of 12.5.

I did not expect clear sky when I went to bed last night and I did not set the alarm clock. I woke up at 3:20am, and noticed the sky was clear. I hurried up and went to the nearest observing site. I began to the session at 3:55 but the twilight would begin within 30 minutes. I could not sweep the east due to the light pollution at the site, and I was forced to sweep the southeast or the south. I decided to start with M46. A planetary nebula in this open cluster, NGC2438, was easily visible. Fine-spun stars in the winter Milky Way were passing in the FOV.
A nebula like object hopped into the FOV and I realized it as a galaxy at a glance. It turned out to be NGC2784 in Hydra. I completed the session in one hour without identifying any other comet-like objects.


It was heavy fog when I left home for the site, but the sky was clear at the site. However, it was humid with poor transparency. I trained my comet-seeker at Cor Hydræ and began to sweep the sky at 3:15. The comet-like objects that came into the FOV were NGC2716, 2713, 3115, 2775, 3166, 3169, and 3521. I noticed halo around a bright star in the FOV that was formed by slight dew condensation on the secondary mirror. At the time of the daybreak Venus emitted the soft light through haze.

Sunday September 16

Last month I conducted comet hunting sessions 8 times that I think the record high in August.

The transparency was excellent this predawn since it rained at midnight. The sky was gorgeous with Jupiter and Venus in addition to many bright stars in the winter constellations. The fragile beauty of the Milky Way that flows among the autumn and winter constellations and the zodiacal light were luxurious.

The eastern sky at the time of twilight on Sep. 16.

This was the successive comet hunting session from yesterday. When I set up my comet seeker and just tried to introduce the second star to initialize the NGC SkyVector, Castor, I witnessed a fire ball with a magnitude of -3. I saw a meteor trail soon by naked eye, and I aimed my 46 cm telescope at the trail. I observed the trail that was divided into two. It was changing the shape slowly with the length of over 10 degrees. What a wonderful opening of the session!

Yesterday I completed the searching session when Venus passed through the FOV, and today I began with Venus. The first comet like object that came across the FOV was NGC2371, a planetary nebula in Gemini. The visual magnitude was 11th though the photometric one is 13. The next object I identified was NGC2672, an 11th magnitude galaxy in Cancer. The altitude was only 16 degrees and Venus was shining only 2 degrees from the galaxy. It was challenging to catch this galaxy even under excellent transparency, but I did well if I do say so. The third one was NGC2903, a bright galaxy in Leo. The altitude was very low, only 10 degrees, but I noticed a spiral arm at a glance. The last object was NGC2683, an elongated galaxy in Lynx. The edge-on shape of the galaxy was beautiful.

The seasons rounded before I know it; the sickle of Leo appeared again magnificently, and Hydra reared its head in the eastern sky.

Sunday, August 19

This month I comet hunted once at dusk, and today was the second hunting session at predawn. This was the first complete clear sky in August; during the other sessions I was always bothered by cloud. I trained my comet-seeker on Jupiter and started there.

Messier 1 must be the only comet like object in my searching area today. Interesting thing was that if I could identify 185P Petriew that was surely within the searching area. Messier 1 shining brightly went through FOV as scheduled, and I went on the session. A comet like object passed through FOV again and I was surprised. I moved the telescope and introduced it into the center of the field. It turned out to be NGC2158, a lovely open cluster accompanying M35. This cluster well resolved into stars with 46 cm comet-seeker, but it looked like a comet at the edge of FOV.

After a short time Venus passed through FOV, but 185P would had come into FOV before it. I overlooked the comet. It was challenging to spot this comet during the session, since it was 15 degrees above horizon at that time (2:40a.m.) with 11th magnitude and defused image. Venus was shining only 3.2 degrees from the comet and zodiacal light was also illuminated the area. I tried to introduce the comet using Starmap Pro., an app of iPod, but I could not identify 185P at a glance. I peered into FOV for a while and I noticed the comet with some 1f in diameter. The comet was too faint to spot during the session. I observed 185P last time in 2002. The last return was February 2007, but I could not see the comet due to bad weather.

Changing the mood I continued the session and another comet like image came across FOV. In a moment I remembered the object; NGC1931, a mixed emission-reflection nebula in Auriga. After that I enjoyed beautiful winter Milky Way and open clusters in FOV, and then I aimed my comet-seeker at 185P again at 3:40a.m. The altitude of the comet was 27 degrees and the image was so clear that I could not miss. Apparent diameter was over 3f. Assuming that this comet was a new one, you could not discover it at 2:40a.m. but you could at 3:40a.m. Probably, around 3a.m. (altitude of some 20 degrees) must be the divide. What we have learned is that a slight difference in the condition leads you to the discovery.

At 3:51a.m. the sky was getting brighter and my comet-seeker reached the horizon. When I decided that this was the end of todayfs session, a bright star came into the field. I found it Mercury at a glance. I could also see it by naked eye. Beautiful daybreak with high transparency.

Sunday, July 29

It has been nasty weather throughout this month. I got up at least four times at predawn, but it has been always cloudy or hazy at an altitude of lower than 40 degrees.

Giro-WR with 20 cm ref. The details are here.

My main comet seeker is 46 cm Dob, and I seldom use other telescope nowadays. The major reason is that Carton TA Atl-Az mount for 20 cm ref. and 12.5 cm ED is too heavy to intend to set up. This month I have renewed the Alt-Az mount and I believe this new system is very handy. The mount is Giro-WR, a German made mount. It features free-stop with precise tracking. I installed a graduated azimuthal ring and a clinometer which works as digital setting circles using with a planetarium app of  iPod.

Saturday, June 30

It was lucky enough to conduct comet hunting sessions five times this week. It was cloudy on Monday, hazy on Friday but I swept the sky on the other days.

I tend to have lack of sleep in this time of the year. The beginning of the twilight is half past 2, and I need to get up at 1a.m. to take sufficient time for comet searching.

On Wednesday the transparency was excellent and I identified three nebulae: NGC7293 (Helix nebula), 7392, and 7606. NGC7293 has a large apparent diameter and I was always astonished when the nebula came into the FOV. NGC7392 is a 12th magnitude galaxy that is the limit magnitude to detect under the condition of the night.

Jupiter and Venus in the twilight.

What I thought during the session.

A star shines because of the existence of darkness.
Lo, pure true world. That is the place where we are from and where we are going to go.
Lo, regal dignity of Jupiter and candor of Venus.
When the daybreak robbed Jupiter of the dignity and hides Venus with the veil of daylight, the real world with full of deceptions revives.

I remembered Minoru Hondafs saying.

You see farther during the dark night
than in the bright daytime
As far as the star world

Saturday, June 2

The alarm clock rang at 1 a.m. and I tried to get up but had a hard time to do. I could manage to get out of my bed and looked up the sky from the eastern window. There appeared no stars on the sky. I intended to get back to my bed but I felt something was wrong. At the next moment I saw the sky from the southern window and found stars were shinning. I could not notice stars in the eastern sky due to the moonlight.

While I was setting up my comet-seeker, the moon went down and stars began to shine more brilliant with time. I was happy to see the Milky Way appeared.

I started the hunting session from M22 that was just at the meridian at 1:45 a.m. As the moon was nearly full, I guessed many comet hunters in the world had searched around the ecliptic, i.e. the constellation of Aquarius, in several days. This was the reason why I wanted to seek the south or the east. The visibility in the eastern sky was poor from the todayfs observing site, and I decided to search the southern sky.

The Deep Sky Objects I identified were M70, M54, NGC6723, 6726, M55, and M75. Among these, only NGC6726 was a reflection nebula and the others were globular clusters. The culmination altitude of NGC6723 and 6726 is only 16 and I wondered if I have ever seen these objects during the session. NGC6726 looked bluish white.

Upper right: NGC6723, left center: NGC6726 and lower left: NGC6727

The moon set at 2:10 a.m., and the beginning of the twilight was at 2:30. The moonless time I enjoyed was only less than half an hour when the Milky Way was impressive.

Monday, May 21

The sky was very clear! Wonderful annular solar eclipse!

I took off today, and my wife and I went to Matsumoto Air Port (3609f04hN, 13755f37hE), which is located on the northern limit line of the eclipse and the bast place to observe Bailyfs beads. I set up Borg 125ED and 8x50 binocular for visual observation and Borg 60ED for photography.

We enjoyed the eclipse perfectly. The Bailyfs beads was impressive! Air temperature fell down significantly at the time of the annular eclipse and we put our jackets on.

From left to right: Borg 60ED, Borg 125ED and 8x50 binocular.

07:34:04 JST, May 21, 2012
Borg 60ED, Canon 20Da, Baader Planetarium AstroSolar Safety film

Accidentally, I met an acquaintance of National Astronomical Observatory of Japan and the editor-in-chief of a astronomical magazine at the site. I had a good time with them.

Sunday, May 20

Every predawn I got up it was cloudy. I conducted only one comet hunting session this month so far. However, I am sure we can enjoy annular eclipse tomorrow morning. The forecast is positive though we cannot expect perfect clear sky.

I received the plaque for the Edgar Wilson Award, and updated the page of gAbout meh. But there is no announcement about the award.

Saturday, May 12

It has been cold and cloudy this month, and I comet hunted only once. In the past there were cold periods that were related to solar inactivity, such as Maunder Minimum, though the mechanism is not known. I guess this trend will continue for several decades from now.

I, as a professional scientist, cannot approve the hypothesis of global warming, although I do not strongly deny it. The hypothesis claims that increase in carbon dioxide originated by anthropogenic activities gives rise to temperature on the planet, but there is no direct observational evidence to support the hypothesis.

Last week, I climbed Mt. Sakato, 634 m above sea level (3703f33hN, 13853f55hE). Recently, I went to the mountain almost every week.

Last month the ridge was covered with snow, but this time a community of pretty flower, Erythronium japonicum Decne, were at their best, and I felt I had been a diferent place.

Mt. Sakato. April 2012 (left) and May 2012 (right).

Tsutomu Seki in his eighty keeps swimming for fitness, and he continues comet hunting and observations. I go skiing and trekking for my health. I am considering climbing Mt. Sakato tomorrow again.

Saturday, April 28

This is the fifth comet hunting session this month. This predawn the sky was clear without a speck of cloud, contrary to the other sessions during this month in which I was disturbed by scattered clouds.

I searched near the ecliptic in a conventional way; mainly Aquila, Capricornus, and Aquarius. The deep sky objects that came into the FOV were only M72 and M2. I could have felt satisfactory, if I had encountered more of them. Stars that I saw with being settled after a long interval were beautiful, especially, the Milky Way in Aquila looked like golden sands scattered on the heaven.

What I thought during the session:

Stars shining in the distant part of the universe are not capable of sin. However, those who obtain this sacred brilliance to hold supremacy or to hunt for rights and interests are defiled. Originally, the brilliance is holy and must not be used by human beings. Those who are unclean are still trying to hide the sin even though they have harmed many people. How stupid!
We need to shut down all atomic powers on this planet.

NGC7510. The image size is 10f.
The Digitized Sky Survey copyright©1994

The session on April 17, I identified the NGC number of a certain asterism that I observed many times in the past. It was NGC7510, open cluster in Cepheus.
The Night Sky Observer's Guide reads gA real surprise –at all powers!h Actually, the asterism is impressive.

I observed another impressive object on April 19: NGC6717, a globular cluster in Sagittarius. It was some 1f in diameter with my 46 cm comet-seeker, and located only 2f south of Nu 2, a 5 magnitude star. The magnitude of the cluster is 9th, but as it is near the bright star with the small apparent size I have probably overlooked this object until now. With higher magnification, 157x, the stars in the cluster was sparse like an open cluster, but astronomically this object is classified as an globular cluster.

NGC6717. The image size is 10f.
The Digitized Sky Survey copyright©1994

The fine weather seems to continue for several days from now.

Saturday, April 7

In March I got up at predawn six times, but I could comet hunt only twice. The nasty weather has lasted through this month. At present I comet searched only once in April, when I did only 40 minutes because of high percentage of the cloud cover during the session. Today it is snowing steadily like in mid winter and newly fallen snow depth has reached 20 cm since yesterday.

On the Edgar Wilson Award

Ikeya and I must be candidates of the winners of the Edgar Wilson Award for the discovery of P/2010 V1 Ikeya-Murakami. However, I heard nothing from the Smithsonian Institute after July in 2011 when the announcement would have been made. I though the award had been canceled for some reasons.

In this February, suddenly, I received an email from Christine Pulliam, a public affairs specialist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. She said I won the award and was requested to let her know information on the wire transfer. I have received the award money at the end of March, but have not yet accepted the plaque.

There seems to be no formal announcement on the award winners via IAUC, and the winners are not only Ikeya and I judging from the amount of money I received. I think we are the only winners for the year of 2011 and the other persons and organizations are not qualified. What happens?

I heard from Pulliam again this month. She said she could not contact Ikeya and wanted to know his email address. I know Ikeya is not a user of email but I thought I should help her.

I phoned Ikeya and told him the situation. He said he had received a letter from Smithsonian Institute on the award that read he let them know information on the wire transfer. But he could not follow how to fill the form exactly and would ask his son to read the documents when his son visited his home.

As he said it was hard for me to understand how to fill the forms. I faxed the forms that I have submitted to him and told him to fill the forms in the same way I did. I emailed what I did to Pulliam, and she replied with the forms in which Ikeya just adds the wire transfer information with his signature. Again, I sent a fax to Ikeya and had a talk with him by phone to tell him how to sand an international fax. Finally, he would be able to get the award money and the plaque.

At any rate, I wonder what the lengthy delay of the winnersf announcement and changes in the rules imply. Ikeya told me he thought the award had canceled as I imagined. Upon the last prize-winning I used email to contact with Smithsonian Institute but Dr. Marsden helped Ikeya communicate with SI.

The earth crust and the climate are getting unstable worldwide, which gets political and economic regime along with governing structure of various kinds of organizations changeable. Nevertheless, shining of a star is permanent.

Monday, March 12

Today is the 10th anniversary of the discovery of C/2002 E2 Snyder-Murakami. Just like the year of 2002, to date I conducted comet hunting sessions only 3 times from February. This is not because of my laziness but nasty weather.

The weather service says it will be bad weather for a week from today. This month I got up three times before 3a.m. but I could go comet hunting under a starry sky only once. Another predawn, I left home for the observing site but I was clouded out before I got to the site. I was forced to get back home. The other time, I confirmed cloudy sky from a window of my room. The forecast predicted clear sky for these three predawns, but the results were like this.

Weekly forecast from March 12, 2012
Japan Meteorology Agency

A person said it was impossible to discover a new comet in Niigata Prefecture where I live because of low chance of clear sky. It is true that one has such a feeling since there are so many days with bad weather. I have been irritated and felt frustrated by nasty weather, but I need not to strain to comet hunt. If only I am patient, I have great enjoyment and have a pure mind with clear sky, which shines stars more brilliant in my mindfs eye. This may be one of the reasons I can keep searching.

I may be lucky. In 2010 I discovered my second named comet, P/2010 V1 Ikeya-Murakami, and in 2004 I spotted P255 (C/2006 T1) Levy, though this was not an official discovery. Moreover, in 2004 I experienced unconfirmed comet discovery in Scutum. I encountered many comets during a little over 980 hours of comet hunting.

I have a feeling that the 980 hours is equivalent to 2000–3000 hours of searching for comet hunters who live on the Pacific side where the chance of clear sky is much higher. I keep waiting for clear sky patiently, even if I have experienced cloudy sky so many times when I got up in the wee hours. I cannot remember how many times it got cloudy at the observing site just when I set up my telescope. Even worse, sometimes it started raining or snowing suddenly.

I will have a starry sky in due time. I will wait patiently for the day to come to have a premium time with brilliant stars and to luck out in a new comet again.

Saturday, February 25

During one week I comet hunted two consecutive predawns, and enjoyed a comet observation.

Sunday, February 19

I observed C/2012 C2 Bruenjes discovered on February 11 UT by the US amateur using a 36 cm Schmidt-Cassegrain with CCD. This comet could have discovered visually with a large aperture telescope as the reported visual magnitude was 10th.

I tried to observe this comet at dusk under moderately light polluted condition. The major light sources were the lamps of ski fields for night skiing. I could not see this comet with my 46 cm at a magnification of 68, but at 157x I noticed a faint patch. The comet was fading and the magnitude was estimated at 12th by intuition. I also observed 78P Gehrels that was brighter than C/2012 C2.

Monday, February 20

This was the first comet hunting session this month. As temperature was as low as -9 degrees Celsius, the sky was very transparent. I aimed my telescope at the waist of Ophiuchus to start the session. On the first swing of the comet seeker, M12 came into the FOV and at the next moment M10 did. They were beautiful and I felt as if I had met old friends. I might write the similar things in the dairy before but as the seasons rotate and when I encounter the objects for the first time in the year I always have such feelings.

NGC6445, a planetary nebula, and NGC6440, a globular cluster, were the next DSO I identified. At 4:15a.m. some 10 minutes after the beginning of the session, suddenly the sky got brighter. The illumination lamps in the ski field were turned on! I continued the session until 5:35a.m., over half an hour after the start of the twilight. At this predawn I was exhausted by low temperature.

Tuesday, February 21

Prior to the comet hunting session I enjoy observing Mars. White color of the northern polar cap, pale blue colored cloud on the rim and some of the surface features were very impressive.

I began to the comet hunting session from M4 at 4:10a.m. It was much warmer than yesterday and comfortable. However, I was clouded out in 35 minutes and finished the session at 4:45a.m.

As is the always the case with here in Niigata area, you can comet hunt a couple of times or less per month at a maximum December through February.

Wednesday, January 18

The crescent mood was in the southeast in the constellation of Libra. It was bright enough to reduce the limiting magnitude of stars by two in the SE. At 4:05a.m. I aimed my comet-seeker on M13 and began with the session from this globular cluster to avoid the moonlight. Even so I did not notice NGC6207, a galaxy near M13, due to the moonlight but I could see it by being conscious of this object.
In two minutes at the second swing of the session, a comet came into the FOV! Beautiful! It was emerald green with a tail and 7th mag. I soon realized it was C/2009 P1 Garradd. I was charmed by the beauty of the comet for a while.

The other objects I identified were M57 and M92 only. This was not because of the moonlight but originally there are few galaxies that can be seen by my telescope in the region. In addition to that I could not search the lower part of the sky due to snow deposition.

The region I swept. Copied from MegaStar5

Air temperature was -8 degrees Celsius, the lowest in this winter. I put a pair of chemical heating pads under the toes in my polar boots. But it was not enough to heat my feet and I added another pair of the pads under my heels.

I believe the comet looked wonderful because of this coldness that amplified the transparency of the air. The hard work under the low temperature was rewarded.

Monday, January 9

I have been in Maui, Hawaii, at the end of last month. This travel was not focus only on the star gazing, but we visited Mt. Haleakala (3055 m) 4 times during our stay.

The top of Haleakala. The taller dome is Pan-STARRS telescope.

At the first trip to the Haleakala trip the sky was clear. We enjoyed taking photos and the sunset at the top (the parking at an altitude of 3049 m). There are some telescope domes at the top. The taller dome on the photo is the Pan-STARRS telescope with 1.8 m primary mirror, one of the robotic surveys. We comet hunters compete with this telescope.

I tried to comet hunt with Pan-STRRAS there, but at the top the wind was too strong to observe. Then, we moved down to the second parking (2990 m). Even at the second parking gust attacked the telescope many times and we started heading for our hotel in a couple of hours.

The second trip was heavy storm. It was expected that the sky might be clear at the top but it was not. This was just a round–trip to the top.

The third parking. Lower left is light pollution in Kahului city.

At the third trip the wind was strong again and I set up my 30 cm telescope at the third parking (2845 m). I took some photos using a small tripod, and after an hour I noticed a part of the sky got darker. It was fractus and at the next moment it began to rain. I took down my telescope as soon as possible. The intensity of rain got stronger with time, and changed to the storm.
At the parking I met Mr. Jun Lee, Kaze Enterprises.Llc with many Japanese tourists. He is a cheerful tour guide of Haleakala sunset or sunrise tour. They were lucky as it started raining just after they left the parking for their hotels.

At the fourth trip the wind was extremely strong. I parked at the third parking and met Mr. Lee with his guests again. He said they went down to the lower site since the wind was too strong to observe. I followed their vehicle and set up my telescope at an altitude of 1770 m with them. When I ate supper in my car the sudden gust hit my telescope and it fell down flat. Luckily, the damage was not very serious. The finder adaptor made from wood plate was destroyed but the finder itself was safe.

Mr. Lee told me December and January are the worst season. The weather is unstable and the wind is generally strong. But this December is abnormal, he added. In fact the wind had been strong even in the city and a strong wind advisory was released all over the Hawaii Islands. I noticed that the seeing was as deteriorate as that in Japanese winter.

I took a snap shot of the whale jump. This whale was estimated to be 45-50 m in length.

Stargazing was not successful but we enjoyed whale watching and other activities in Hawaii.

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