LtE in CMO #259

From  Samuel R WHITBY

@ . . . . . . . . . . Dear Masatsugu,


Thank you for sharing your interesting communications with me. I am glad that Jeff had the opportunity of visiting you in Japan. He is a very experienced and knowledgeable observer, and he no doubt enjoyed the opportunity to meet you in person. We have had some friendly communications but have never met in person.


Congratulations on your retirement. Your work will certainly continue in the achievement of your students. I am glad you are planning to devote your energies to Mars.


I have initiated the paperwork to retire from state service this year. My job is considered a dangerous one, and the state makes it possible for us to retire earlier than some other government employees. I will not stop working but will just work elsewhere, with hopefully more energy and with time and money left for astronomy.


The last year has been rather purgatorial - I started to write hellish, but hopefully my situation will have an end. By the end of the day I am in pain and unable to do much but get ready for another day. Since the year that Tyler was born, I have had serious back problems that have kept me in pain for most of the day. The situation at work has also become more dangerous, for I am often alone with thirty or forty serious offenders, and the work day is 12 hours long. I have to be alert and able to respond mentally and physically - many of the boys are bigger than I am - at all times. Since a young man died after being physically restrained in one of our sister institutions, the state has been very reluctant to allow someone at my level to discipline a ward. I often have to tolerate much more misbehavior than I would have in earlier years. It is frustrating to try to teach anything in an atmosphere that is chaotic.


The anecdotes about the shrinking stick and the visibility of the names of the Martian canals were amusing. I once was showing the constellations to a young lady, and she said she had seen them before at a planetarium. She added that at the planetarium there were lines between the stars and there were outlines for the figures of the constellations, and she supposed that we were not out late enough for the lines and figures to have been turned on yet.


We had a copy of a translation of Antoniadi's La Plančte Mars at the RAS Observatory, unfortunately with no illustrations. I own a copy of Sheehan's The Planet Mars, A History of Observation and Discovery, and I enjoy very much his telling of the stories of Antoniadi, Lowell, Schiaparelli, and others.


The Richmond Astronomical Society now has a cookbook CCD imager which it is trying to get operational. Maybe I can use it for planetary imaging in the future.


After an unusually dry and warm winter (I used only half as much heating oil as usual), we have had sufficient rain for the flowers and gardens to begin to flourish. I will email you a photo of some of our daffodils. They are especially appreciated due to the fact that, unlike most of our hybrids, they are fertile and reproduce by seeds as well as by division.


 Enjoy your retirement and stay in touch. Thank you for continuing to send the CMO.


                  (4 April 2002 email)


@ . . . . . . . . . .Masatsugu,


Here is a photo of a patch of Narcissus bulbocodium, hoop petticoat daffodils.

                       (4 April 2002 email)


@ . . . . . . . . . Dear Masatsugu,

I am sending a photograph of the grave of Reverend John Weatherford. He is buried out on a farm near Java, VA, which is near the city of Chatham. He was a great-great-great-great grandfather of my generation.  More interestingly, he was one of the first Baptist preachers in the Virginia colony, and he preached as a Baptist when the Church of England was the only legal religion. He was thrown in jail in Chesterfield County, where there now is a historical marker to commemorate the early religious freedom case. Patrick Henry was legal counsel for Weatherford and his co-defendants. When Henry had the charges reduced to preaching without a license and the penalty reduced to a fine, Weatherford denied that he had done any wrong. He refused to pay the fine and remained in jail. He preached to the jailors even though they beat him, leaving scars that lasted the rest of his life. An anonymous party, thought to have been Patrick Henry, paid the fine, and the jailors released the Reverend, no doubt glad to see him go.


Some would say that the grave site is insufficiently grand, but I rather like it the way it is.

Best wishes,

     (4 April 2002 email)


@ . . . . . . . . . .Dear Masatsugu,


Thank you for notifying me about the mailing of CMO#258.


A couple of nights ago I saw John Barnett at the observatory, and before I could say so, he said that he hoped we could have the CCD imager up and running before Mars comes around again. I think we will.


 I have been planning to write and mention that we ( David and Tyler and, separately, Randy ) have enjoyed Comet Ikeya-Zhang. It was observed here numerous times in the evening sky, and several times more recently in the morning. Today the comet was estimated at magnitude +3, with a tail of 2-3 degrees in length. There actually seemed to be two tails, so it seems that gas and dust tails were visible. The magnitude estimate was made by comparing the comet to out-of-focus images of the bowl stars of the Little Dipper. The comet was easy with the unaided eye, in spite of moderate light pollution and annoying lighting from  neighbors' so-called security lighting. With binocculars, the comet was quite impressive. Randy recently wrote that he had a good view from out in the country.


 In 1965 I saw and marveled at Ikeya and Seki's great comet. At the time I was a teenager who played at farming with my Grandfather. We got up early and went out before dawn to feed the farm animals, and I, one could say, independently discovered the comet in the morning sky. I had a small telescope and had seen several telescopic comets, Comet Humason and Comet Burnham among them, and I recognized at once that Ikeya-Seki was something else altogether, a real monster comet, greater, I think, than Hale-Bopp. I told my science teacher at school that there was a great comet in the sky in the morning before dawn. Hearing the before dawn, he sort of made a frown, and I doubt that he ever saw it. With the slow pace of communications in those days, I did not learn the name of the comet until after it had gone, and I missed the sun-grazing aspect completely.


 Sky and Telescope has reported the unfortunate death of Hyakutaké. His loss is something of a shock, coming so unexpectedly. I am sorry about his passing and sad for the grief of his family. His great comet is especially memorable in that the blue color was readily seen visually and that its motion against the background of stars could be seen in real time. Randy saw it away from city lights and noted the great length of its tail.


 I have not seen the cherry trees in Washington. Cousin Angela said that she did not believe that the weather had damaged the cherry blossoms. My brother's cherry trees, which he grows for fruit rather than ornamentation, were in beautiful bloom when I saw them on April 14.


                 (17 April 2002 email)


Sam WHITBY (Hopewell, VA, USA) 

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