Comet Hunt

Having consulted with the reverent comet hunter, Don Machholz, from Colfax, the US, I decide to start comet hunt from this month.

Comet hunt, it has been my perpetual  dream since my early childhood yet has been obstackled by the sky condition where I live as it’s frequently hazy and teemed with severe light pollution. By no means can I see the should-have-be spectacular summer milky way even though at predawn when many people go to bed and the majority of lights are off.

Under such unfavorable circumstances, I can only focus mainly on planetary observations. At times when there’re some bright comets in nightskies, I’ll train my 10cm-refractor that I purchased in 2003 to have a look at them. But in many cases, I can only observe comets faint to 8 mag, condensed no less than DC=2, which obviously can’t suffice my ambition.

Luckily, some ten kilometers away northeast to the downtown lies my maternal grandparents’ house, where the sky condition is much better. During my primary school I often went there to have nightsky observations of DSOs through my first scope — a small 8cm-refractor, now already obsolete. The sky there spellbound me deeply. Countless stars resembled the glimmering jewelry placed in front of a mighty black velvet. M13 used to be a very easy object to naked eye, so did M31 and various DSOs ancored in the fabulous summer milky way. Furthermore, every spring night when it was clear, which is yet rare owing to influence from the monsoon, I could well see the southern Cross as well as Rigil Kent and Hadar to its east above the south horizon by naked eye.

It would have been a wonderful place for me to comet hunt as seen from today. But, it’s a great pity, I must confess that I didn’t have any ability to conduct comet hunt at that time in that, weirdly, formatively from the habit I formed in urban area that I still firmly sticked to planetary observations even under such superb circumstances, paying little attention to comets, as an inertia. Therefore I intensely lacked experience of comets, let alone to begin comet hunt! It was not until the new year’s day in 2005 when I observed C/2004 Q2 (Machholz) in the chillest atmosphere I had ever experienced, the first comet I have ever seen, albeit several attempts had taken before but vainly, did I start to concentrate on cometary observations.

Unfortunately now my precious foundation, at least for me, has been stained — the municipality authorities widened a road not far from my site and a lot of bright road lights have been come into use since 2007. To make matters worse, a new avenue was finished in 2010 freight with powerful road lights on at nights, despite some kilometers away to the south, yet leading to a fairly bright southern sky… People quite second to these promotions as they observe that they needn’t so be scare when walking along the road in eerie darkness as in the past. So my sound is weak.

It’s fatal to me. And I have no idea stop the trend. Dark sky is a rare estate now. My new 8″ Dob from Mr. Tin from Amoi made in 1995 gives me some piteous compensation to fight against the brighter and brighter nightskies. My faintest comet that has ever seen was 103P/Hartley in early August last year, whose brightness is then estimated as 12.8. I’m sure my eyes have been well trained during these years that I’m so proud of myself that no any other observer around me can detect objects as faint as I can. When I point out that something, for example, a comet or a galaxy of 9 mag is quite obvious through the eyepiece to me under light polluted condition, other people, however, need to exert themselves to attempt a tiny glimpse of the blotch of light, or, in most cases, see nothing whatsoever; it’s a great luck to me! Thereby I have some confidence in my future comet hunt.

I clearly remember the order in importance suggested by Don, that it’s the eye, the conditions, and finally the scope that decides how faint one sees. I totally agree wih him in accord with my own experience. My eyes are actually the best weapon!

I frequently dream of discovering a new comet, but now I decide to set off to conduct real comet hunts in nightskies. The opportunity is always there, however small it is, and the key to success is whether you give it a try. During the approaching summer vacation, I’ll put my dream into practice. I need to find out the best means for me to sweep the sky, the rate and the way to recognize DSOs as fast as I can against a printed star atlas. I need to form my own pattern.

Undoubtedly I know there’s no much opportunity for me to make my dream come true this life, but I won’t get repentent with any complain when mortibund in that I’ve been trying my best. In fact, varieties and myriad of DSOs will satisfy me already through the eyepiece; they’ll awe me deeply, and delight me philosophically, as I’m seeing the mighty universe through my own eyes by myself. We human often speak highly of ourselves, busy seeking reputation and vainglory. Every time when faced with the heaven, I calm down and retrospect myself, therebyunhappiness away. The heaven is my real friend; it rejoices me when I’m overwhelmed with sadness; it relieves me when I’m distressed.

If I become as miserable as Robert Burnham Jr. in the future, I won’t complaint a bit. Instead, I’ll enjoy myself.

Hmm, I must to put many trifles aside, and I’ll keep this way. It’s also so great that I don’t have any loveship that blocks my way at the moment. I mustn’t get entangled by this quackmire in the future, because this along with other trivia may well distract my concentration. It’s well known that a very negative fluctuation in emotion results in a smaller LM, i.e. I’m likely to lose faint objects that should have been within my ability. All of these must get away from me!

As Don suggested, I need to go to bed as early, so I’d love to take his advice. I’ll go to bed before 9 p.m. and get up at around 2:30 a.m. in summertime and about 3:30 a.m. in winter at every clear predawn, regardless of however hot or cold. I’ll apply for my driving liscence too, for the reason that with a car I myself can drive out to seek for more favorable sites to comet hunt with ease at predawn as what Shigeki Murakami, my great mentor, have been doing. I’ll learn to be as perseverent and patient as those esteemed hunters like Murakami san, Don, Kaoru Ikeya, and Tsutomu Seki. In fact I have been influenced by these figures directly or indirectly for long. Last year Murakami san sent me two books by Seki san, ホウキ星が呼んでいる, 未知の星を求めて, from which, although I can’t understand much Japanese, I’m still able to read out an industrious hunter who impact upon my heart deeply.

Best wishes to myself! Toast!

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Comet Hunt

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