From my recent diary
Monday, June 25
I was longing for clear sky during this rainy season and here it came.
I headed for the site expectantly. Nonetheless, fog appeared on the way
and the situation seemed to be the same as I approached the observing
site. Anyway, I had no choice. Upon arrival at the site the fog
slightly cleared off and I started setting up my comet seeker without
Waxing moon was on the west that shed light on the ground around the
site. The moon set at 3:01a.m. local time, while the beginning of the
twilight was at 3:27a.m. The period of dark night was only 26 minutes.
At 2:45a.m. I trained my telescope at alpha Andromedae where I started
the session. The background in FOV was getting darker as the moon
inclined toward the west. A lower part of the sky was covered with fog,
but the transparency was good at higher altitude. Though I expected to
identify some galaxies, I could none of them even 15 minutes after of
At 3:27a.m. local time, i.e. the beginning of the twilight, suddenly,
many galaxies came into the FOV. I could identified five of them with
ease: NGC379, 380, 383, 385 and 403. Though it seemed that there
existed more galaxies in the FOV by refereeing to SkySafati 6 Pro, they
were obviously not comets and I continued the hunting session as I did
not want to spend time for confirmation.
A galaxy group of NGC383 (magnitude of 12.2) in the constellation of
Pisces. I identified the galaxies with NGC numbers on the image above,
though many others that looked like stars might be perceptible by my
eye. The faintest one was NGC385 with the magnitude 13.0. The image is
The Digitized Sky Survey copyright © 1994
Four minutes after, M33 appeared at the center of the FOV with
wonderful spiral structure. After a few minutes I came across a pair of
galaxies, NGC499 and 507. The magnitude was 12.2 and 11.3,
respectively. There are some other brighter galaxies in the area,
however, I could not observe them. Probably, all galaxies except for
M33 were ones that I observed for the first time. It gave me a sense of
Sunday, June 24
attended the 48th Annual Comet Conference in Ishigaki Island, last
weekend. The conference dared to be held at the time of new moon. The
local organizing committee wanted to enjoy star gazing under the dark
sky. I hesitated to attend the conference at the time of new moon, but
I did this time because the value of clear sky has reduced after moving
to Kumamoto as the chance of fine days increased. Unfortunately, we
could slightly see starry sky due to approach of a typhoon.
My wife, her friend and I headed for Ishigakijima Astronomical
Observatory before the start of the conference. However, the
observatory was closed. I made a phone call and the answering machine
said it was closed due to the typhoon. The road to the observatory
might be dangerous because of fallen trees and landslide. We safely
drove through the road but we were forced to return.
Ishigakijima Astronomical Observatory
Today less comet hunters attend the conference in comparison with the
past. Even though Akihiko Tago, a discoverer of four new comet, took
part in the conference from Kobe. He had observed in Okayama
Prefecture, but moved to Kobe where his daughter lives due to aging. He
said he stopped observing because of old age.
Tago said he attended the Annual Comet Conference last in 1977 when I
did for the first time. I remember that many comet discoverers
including Tago and Minoru Honda took part in the conference at that
Akihiko Tago (right) and me.
I conducted a comet hunting session on Wednesday 13th June. We have few
clear sky now that it is rainy season, but the sky condition was the
best since I began to live in Kumamoto. C/2016 M1 PanSTARRS was 9th
magnitude with a tail. After observing the comet I began to search with
theta Pegasi, and identified nine galaxies including NGC7723 and 7600
with a planetary nebula, NGC246. The condition was satisfactorily for
this season with good seeing for comet hunting, though there was cloud
at an altitude of 10 degrees and lower. The air temperature was10
degrees Celsius at the site, contrarily, daily maximum was over 30
degrees near my workplace. The site is in the inland with high altitude
that causes large daily temperature difference. One must be careful to
keep in good shape.
Thursday, May 24
was the sixth comet hunting session since having moved to Kumamoto. Ozu
town where I live is some 18 km away from the central part of Kumamoto
City, i.e. my workplace. The distance between my residence and the top
of Mount Aso (1592 m) is also about 18 km in a straight line.
Considering the balance between work and comet hunting Ozu is a very
good town to live.
Locations of Kumamoto City, my residence, two observing sites. Active
crater at Aso Nakadake and Daikanbo Lookout are also indicated (refer
to photos below).
I visited active crater at Aso Nakadake that was vomiting smoke. The
area is kept out when the concentration of poison gas is getting high.
My observing sites are not near the top of the mountain, but at the
outer rim of the crater. There are two sites but I still do not know
which one is better. The siteA is at the altitude of 940 m, and the
other is 730 m and both of them are some 25-minute drive from my house.
However, the direction and a degree of the light pollution is different
at each site.
The central cone (from the center to the left) seen from Daikambo Lookout (936 m) on the somma.
Today I started to search from Epsilon Pegasi, at 2:48am. The wind was
strong with poor seeing. I often reduce the magnification 97x to 78x,
because I cannot concentrate on the session under poor seeing, but
today, I used 97x throughout the session. At 3:30am wind got weak and
suddenly, seeing was improved. My level of concentration augmented, and
as a result I identified NGC7817, a galaxy with the magnitude of 11.8.
There are many galaxies as bright as NGC7817 in the Great Square of
Pegasus, but today NGC7817 was the only one I observed. I wondered if
one of the causes for poor seeing is that the morphology of the site in
addition to strong wind. During my course of the hunting session I
observed C/2016 M1 PanSTARRS. The comet was in the Milky Way with 10th
magnitude, but I could not detect the tail.
Though there were some 7 days with clear sky in May, I could conduct
comet hunting session only two days due to being busy with my work. It
is sure that the chance of clear sky is 2 to 3 times higher than that
in Niigata where I lived until March.
Sunday, April 15
Moving to Kumamoto
I have been transferred and moved to Kumamoto this month. I have been
very busy in March and after, and I scarcely conducted a comet hunting
session. There are three comet discoverers in Kumamoto: Nishikawa,
Utsumomiya and Kudo, with brisk activity on amateur astronomy.
It is easy to approach wonderful observing point, Aso, a volcano with
high elevation, from Ozu town where I live. The sky is much darker in
comparison with that in Tohkamachi, Niigata, where I lived and a chance
of clear sky is higher by far. It takes some time to get settled in but
it is sure that I will do fruitful comet hinting life than ever.
Friday, February 23
it has been nasty weather of winter time, finally, I conducted a comet
hunting session for the first time this month. It took 45 minutes to
start the session after arriving at the observing site. The time needed
for the preparation is 25 to 30 minutes in summer, but it is time
consuming to wear clothes against cold protection in winter.
I aimed my comet-seeker at alpha Ophiuchi, Rasalhague, and began the
session at 3:48am local time. The sky suddenly got bright at around 4am
because ski resorts started field preparation for opening. The sky
condition is poor even if it is cloudless in winter due to the light
pollution from the ski fields. I my self is a skier, but I must say
there are too many ski resorts around my observing site. I can remember
more than a dozen of ski fields easily.
Jyoetsu Kokusai Ski Resort. The mountain in the background is Mt. Hakkaisan.
Matsudai Family ski field at night.
Returning to the comet hunting. The first deep sky object that came
into the FOV was NGC6633, a splendid open cluster. The next was
NGC6760, a ninth magnitude globular cluster. There was C/2016 M1
PanSTARRS 1.1 degrees north of the cluster, but I could not notice.
NGC6760 looked an 11th magnitude globular cluster that I observe when
the sky condition is good. Then, I was relaxed to observe a wonderful
double star, theta Serpentis. The primary star looked yellowish and the
companion light blue that moved like a creature by scintillation. After
identifying some open clusters, I identified NGC6781, a planetary
nebula in the constellation of Aquila. I completed the todayfs session
just after NGC9634, a globular cluster in Delphinus, came into the FOV
at 5:21am, 23 minutes after the start of the twilight.
It was breezing with air temperature of -5 degree Celsius and I was a
little cold. I used a heater installed pants for the first time. It was
an excellent product like the heater installed vest (see Comet hunting Wear).
Monday, January 28
conducted the first comet hunting session this year on Monday, January
1. Air temperature was -10 degrees Celsius, the lowest record of all my
hunting session. I aimed at M12, a globular cluster in Ophiuchus, and
identified M10 and M14. No additional DSO was observed. Thin moon rose
on the southeast at the time when I completed the session.
After that we had some warm days, but it had been chilly and windy for
several days. I think there would be any clear sky this month from now
Ten years ago, the Italian binocular fan, Paolo Morini, asked me to write a report on my Russian Army Binocular 15x110. I wrote the original article in English, and it was translated into Italian by Morini and into Japanese by me, respectively.
The other day, he contacted me again and said he purchased the same
binocular, but there was a difference; mine was the type PNB-1 while
his was PNB-2.
He wanted to remodel his referring to mine, because the highest
altitude his binocular can be trained is 60 degrees. Actually, I
modified my binocular in 2016. I sent him the photos of my 15x110
binocular before and after remodeling. The reason why I needed to
modify was that the weight of the main unit, i.e. the housing with the
mount, was VERY heavy: 21 kg in total. I was afraid to get strained
back when I place it on the tripod at the breast height.
Remodeled 15x110 binocular. The photo on the right Rigel Systems QuikFinder and the white dew cap (dangling) are atached.
Scales for an azimuth and an altitude are installed that make it
possible to identify a deep sky object or a comet by combining with a
digital map like SkySafari. I bought the grip rod at a DIY shop that
makes it easy to move the binocular.
To solve the problem I remodeled the system so that the binocular
housing and the mount can be set up separately. The housing is attached
to GIRO ERCOLE Altazimuth Mount that is made in Germany via LBracket,
and the original tripod was replaced with GITZO GT5532LS. The mount is
attached on the tripod using the Losmandy Dovetail Plate. Using this
system it is no need to worry about having strained back.
GIRO ERCOLE Altazimuth Mount
I will report on the detail of this binocular system at another time.
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