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What's Up In the sky November '09

posted Oct 27, 2009, 11:32 AM by Marvin Stewart
               Hanging on the wall next to our computer is a beautiful black and white photograph taken March 21, 2002, of the great comet Ikeya-Zhang. The photo is a mosaic made up of four shots taken by Gregg Ruppel, an ASEM member, who produces extraordinary astrophotography routinely.
               What makes the discovery of this comet unique is it was discovered by two amateur astronomers, Kaoru Ikeya of Japan and Daging Zhang of China, and both were using telescopes they had made themselves. The International Comet Quarterly called Kaoru Ikeya "a veteran comet hunter that has discovered four of the brightest comets of the past century." They also stated C/2002 C1, comet Ikeya-Zhang, was his sixth comet but his first discovery since 1967. Although Daging Zhang has hunted for comets for years this is the first with his name on it.
               At age 6 Ikeya had climbed a ladder to the flat roof of the family home to look at the stars. By 12 he was studying about them in books and was looking at star maps. By 13 he wanted to build a telescope. In 1959 he began grinding the mirror for a 10" telescope. A project that took him two years to complete. Most of the parts for the scope he purchased second hand. Ikeya's family was poor and it became his dream to discover a comet that would bear his name.
              For sixteen months Ikeya awoke early and climbed the ladder to the roof and scanned the dawn sky with his telescope. On the morning of January 2, 1963, he discovered a faint fuzzy object that was not on any map or index in his possession and realized he had discovered his comet. He was waiting at the telegraph office when it opened that morning. He sent a wire to the Tokyo Astronomical Observatory with the comets position and magnitude, including the constellation where he'd found it, Hydra, and it's direction of travel. After the message was sent he got on his bicycle and pedaled to work. Since graduating from middle school Ikeya had worked at the Kawai Gakki Piano Company. His job was to polish the celluloid sheaths for piano keys, for which he earned $35.00 a month.
              In a couple of weeks his find had been confirmed world wide. This was the stuff of fairy tales. A poor young man, 19 years old,  with a telescope he had made himself for a cost of $22.23 had discovered the first comet of the year from the roof of his house. The media besieged his home. There were televison interviews, he recieved some 700 letters, and a made for television movie was produced of the discovery. Through it all Ikeya simply went to work on his bicycle. No one at the piano company had any idea of his success until the media started coming to the factory and asking for interviews. His fellow workers took up a collection and presented him with a check for $150.00 to help him advance his astronomy. Ikeya would also recieve a gold medal from the Tokyo Astronomical Observatory.
             In 2002, Kaoru, now 58 years old, held the same job at the Piano factory. He hadn't asked for advancement, nor was any ever offered, but there are six comets that bear his name.
             Nov  1   Venus will be 4deg north of Spica 8PM. CST
                           Mars is near the center of M44, the Beehive cluster, in early morning.
                      2   Full Moon.
                      5   Mercury at superior conjunction 2AM. CST.
                      9   The Moon will be south of Mars at midnight CST.
                            Last quarter Moon.
                    12   The Moon is 8 deg south of Saturn 7PM. CST.
                    16    New Moon
                    17    Leonid meteor shower peaks.
                    23    The Moon is 4 deg north of Jupiter. near sunset CST.
                    24    First quarter Moon
                            The Moon will pass 3 deg. north of Neptune at midnight CST.
                    26    The Moon is 6 deg. north of Uranus at midnight CST.