LtE in CMO #288

From William Patrick SHEEHAN


. . . . . . . Date: Tue, 27 Jan 2004 22:49:06 -0600

Subject: FW: RE: RE: FLIGHT CENTRE Re: Flight go Tokyo

 

Hello again,

 

This is Bill Sheehan's wife sending an update on the current arrangements for Bill's travel to Japan. I tried to explain the changes you suggested to our travel agent and this is his reply. Does the itinerary look to be what you suggested?

 

Thanks for all your help,

 

Deborah Sheehan

 

. . . . . . .Date: Sun, 1 Feb 2004 12:50:24 -0600

Subject: RE: FW: RE: RE: FLIGHT CENTRE Re: Flight go

 

Dear Masatsugu,

 

Thank you for much for the latest amendment of the schedule. I was at Yerkes Observatory last week doing research on the discovery of the spiral-arm structure of the Milky Way (by W.W. Morgan in 1951) and Debb forwarded your message to me.

Sky & Telescope have just published an article by Tom Dobbins and myself about the canals of Mars as imaged by CCD cameras. Bill Hartmann sent a few comments about this, to which I responded. Here are my comments which may interest you -- especially about the Weapon of Mass Destruction claim and the way that dovetails with the early history of planetary astronomy.

While at Yerkes, I was able to venture one day, by train, into Chicago, and visited the Art Institute. I was especially interested in the Asian art wing and it has greatly piqued my excitement in Japanese art. I am looking forward ever so much to meeting you and your colleagues and am organizing my lectures on Lowell and Mars and the transit of Venus.

I shall be in touch again shortly.

Yours ever,

 

Dear Bill (Hartmann),

Gary Seronik of Sky & Telescope passage along to me your comments, "The Streaks of Mars," which of course I agree with entirely.

I loved your Mars Traveler's Guide, and had it with me last summer when I had more than two weeks' telescope time on the 36-inch refractor at Lick and drew the planet nightly. I posted a web page of these drawings and those by other observers (the color renditions by Laurie Hatch, who is a photographer up there, are absolutely exquisite; better even than Antoniadi's, and she had no training in planetary observation -- only art). If interested, you can access it by doing a Google search on "Two weeks on Mars Lick"

I had to diaphragm the instrument to 20 inches to reduce the chromatic aberration. Even at this resolution, with 400 or 500 power, "canals," such as those around Solis Lacus, appeared like twisted filaments and irregular streaks, but in smaller apertures -- or with lower power -- canal-like impressions were very striking. What made the greatest impression on me was that Mars was obviously a very windswept place. The leitmotif of the planet's surface markings is triangular, streaky, wisp-like, rather than circular as in the case of the basins and craters of the Moon. I think that as you point out the windblown and streaky surface of Mars, combined with the eye-brain-hand's notorious tendency to regularize or emphasize linear trends, was enough to account for the canals. The idea that Schiaparelli and Lowell saw something completely illusory has always seemed to me, as you know, to beg the question; even illusions must have explanations, and as depictions of the reality of the Martian surface, Schiaparelli's and Lowell's drawings capture the streaky schema of the features in a way that is as justified as Antoniadi's smattering of detached spots, which is not always based in the true forms of the surface.

The double canals have always been a puzzle, but I now think that they can be explained, and your idea that the prevailing winds produce multiple parallel streaks is the only possible explanation.

What this does is rehabilitate Schiaparelli and Lowell as observers. Of course, Lowell went too far in his deductions from the canals to intelligence on the surface, but where have we heard that recently?--from our own intelligence service related not to another world but another country. David Kay was quoted in the New York Times on Thursday, "I had innumerable analysts who came to me in apology that the world that we were finding was not the world that they had thought existed." He also said he believes that analysts have been asked to read too much into limited data. Now that sounds to me like a perfect summary of the history of planetary observation during the late 19th and early 20th centuries!

Thanks for your good note, Bill, and do let me know when eventually you have time to paint me a picture of Mars being viewed at a distance by an approaching spacecraft, where the windblown streaks suggest Lowellian canals. I'd prize it especially given the connection with this particular controversy.

All the best, yours,

Bill Sheehan

 

. . . . . . . Date: Mon, 9 Feb 2004 09:00:57 -0600

Subject: RE: FW: RE: RE: FLIGHT CENTRE Re: Flight go

 

Dear Masatsugu,

 

Pardon me for some delay - I have been doing some research at Yerkes Observatory on the discovery of the spiral-arm structure of the Galaxy, a project with which I have been off and on for the past few years now.

I think all the plans for the Japan visit are well with me. The only clarification I am wondering about is -- if I were to postpone departure until say May 10 -- are you planning to remain with me those last few days? If so, I should certainly be glad to postpone.

I am looking forward to seeing you soon and when you have the itinerary finalized I shall be glad to start preparing my talks on Lowell, Mars, and the transits of Venus. I shall also start applying myself to learning some Japanese phrases and will certainly get a copy of a map with English words on it as you advise.

Ever,

. . . . . . .Date: Mon, 9 Feb 2004 13:05:08 -0600

Subject: RE: FW: RE: RE: FLIGHT CENTRE Re: Flight

 

Dear Masatsugu,

 

This trip will be one of the most memorable of my lifetime, and I will put the final plans in place. I am so looking forward to seeing you, and I have a few mementos to bestow upon you in gratitude for all you have done -- not least of which is a paper of Percival Lowell's signed by himself.

I am looking forward to our time together and to meeting all the luminaries of Japan -- your awesome country is a great inspiration to me and I look forward to many lifelong friendships.

Yours,

. . . . . . .Date: Mon, 9 Feb 2004 13:31:40 -0600

Subject: RE: FW: RE: RE: FLIGHT CENTRE Re: Flight

 

Dear Masatsugu,

 

I do not watch the television news at all in the U.S. -- they have been totally co-opted by the industrial-military establishment, in my view. I was asked last September to give a talk at Harvard on Lowell and the Mars controversies, and I chose to entitle it "Planetary intelligence: Lowell, Mars, and the theory of intelligent life," in which I hoped to underscore the uncertainties of our intelligence information about Mars and some of the misleading conclusions that were reached on that basis. I shall certainly allude to this in Japan. It was the one joke that translated across cultures to audiences in New Zealand when I was there.

I sent a message a while back to David Strauss about our plans but have not heard of him. I greatly enjoyed his article on Lowell and Mars, "Fireflies Flashing in Unison."

Yours,

. . . . . . .Date: Sun, 15 Feb 2004 15:54:35 -0600

Subject: RE: FW: RE: RE: FLIGHT CENTRE Re: Flight go

 

Dear Masatsugu,

 

I have made all of the arrangements for the trip to Japan. Details are listed below. I will be extending my stay for two or three days as you suggested -- and gladly.

I hope to start immersing myself in things Japanese in the near future -- including obtaining a map of sites in English, on which I will plot the itinerary you have so kindly and thoroughly planned -- I am also going to reread Lowell's *Noto* with special reference to any places where we will be traveling. I plan to keep detailed notes of the places that we visit and may prepare a kind of then and now publication -- Noto as it was in 1889, through the eyes of this American visitor, and as it is in 2004 through the eyes of this other one (myself).

I will look forward to presenting on Mars and Lowell and the transits of Venus wherever and whenever you wish.

My very best wishes, yours,

 

DATE:FEB 11 2004 ITINERARY OUR REF: WDMFXM

 

AGENT: TIMOTHY

 

SHEEHAN/WILLIAMMR

WEDNESDAY NORTHWST AIR FLIGHT NW 750 COACH CLASS

21 APR 04 DEPART: MPLS/ST PAUL 1118A NONSTOP

TERMINAL L

ARRIVE: DETROIT/METRO 202P CONFIRMED

TERMINAL EM

AIRCRAFT TYPE: AIRBUS A320 JET

FLIGHT DURATION: 1:44

 

WEDNESDAY NORTHWST AIR FLIGHT NW 69 COACH CLASS

21 APR 04 DEPART: DETROIT/METRO 330P NONSTOP

TERMINAL EM

22 APR ARRIVE: OSAKA/KANSAI 610P CONFIRMED

AIRCRAFT TYPE: BOEING 747 JET

FLIGHT DURATION: 13:40

 

THURSDAY ALL NIPPON FLIGHT NH1709 COACH CLASS

OPERATED BY-AIR NIPPON

22 APR 04 DEPART: OSAKA/KANSAI 835P NONSTOP

ARRIVE: FUKUOKA 945P CONFIRMED

TERMINAL D2

AIRCRAFT TYPE: BOEING 737-500

FLIGHT DURATION: 1:10

 

--- SURFACE TRANSPORTATION ---

 

SUNDAY NORTHWST AIR FLIGHT NW 20 COACH CLASS

09 MAY 04 DEPART: TOKYO/NARITA 315P NONSTOP

TERMINAL 1

ARRIVE: MPLS/ST PAUL 1205P CONFIRMED

TERMINAL L

AIRCRAFT TYPE: BOEING 747 JET

FLIGHT DURATION: 10:50

 

. . . . . . .Date: Sat, 21 Feb 2004 17:02:34 -0600

Subject: mars flares from CASLEO

 

Dear Masatsugu,

 

Everything is arranged, then, for my visit. I am looking forward very much. I am beginning to immerse myself again in the Lowell book *Noto*, which is the one I find most enjoyable. I have never cared much for *The Soul of the Far East* -- too sweeping and general -- and have not read, though I should, *Occult Japan*.

I am writing now to update you on some interesting developments regarding Mars. I have just heard from Michael Snowden, an American astronomer (now expatriate) whom I met in New Zealand. Last summer he spent two months photographing Mars from CASLEO in Argentina. He mainly concentrated on short-wavelength imaging -- recording atmospheric details that changed from day to day -- but he also recorded some areas where flare events were observed, as you'll see from his notes to me below. Interesting...

My kindest regards,

Bill

 

****

Dear Bill,

 

Since writing last, I have made some interesting progress on processing my CASLEO Mars images. I am pleased to report that they are turning out better than I had hoped. I have done only initial and simple processing so far, but they are responding beautifully to unsharp masking techniques in displaying far more details in the atmosphere than you can see in the raw samples that I put on the web. My progress is slow, because I am having to learn each step at time in this processing game. Quite different from stellar photometry.

 

Besides the atmosphere, on processing some of my I band images, which show the surface, I think I have captured some activity in the Edom Prominatorium (Schiaparelli crater) area. You are aware that that area is the site of flashes which various people have reported. When compared with my U images taken about the same time, it is clear that the Edom activity I see is not high in the atmosphere, and I suspect it is on the surface. Frost? Fog? I also see some similar bright surface spots just east of Margaritifer and near Valles Marineris. These bright spots do not appear on all of my I band images.

 

Not long ago, I remember seeing a couple of articles in Sky & Telescope about the flashes in the Edom area but cannot find them now. Do you remember those articles and perhaps have a reference for them? I cannot find a modern index for Sky & Telescope.

 

I hope you might still be interested in my sending you an article for Sky & Telescope, or might suggest an alternate magazine. It could be that I've been too slow in reporting last year's opposition, and an article would be too dated. As I gain experience in processing the images, they are getting better and better, but they are not yet ready for publication. I'll send you a sample before long.

 

Here in Christchurch, we have a world-class expert on image processing named Richard Lane. I was able to get his attention with my CASLEO Mars images, and he is currently seeing if he can exceed my attempts at extracting information from them by analysing a sample. I bet he will. After getting his results in another fortnight, I'll have a pretty good idea of what I can actually do with them. Round about May - June, I will be visiting the U.S., during which time I will visit various centres to see about further analysis. Our friend, Bill Hartmann, has invited me to visit him at PSI, so I'll do that. I'll also be going to Harvard, but I'm not sure where else. I'll start looking for further invitations next month. Hawaii? Cornell? JPL? Will you and I cross paths anywhere in that time frame?

 

What do you do for getting central meridians for Mars? I must calculate 10,000 for my entire image collection. I found a perfect little BASIC programme on page 296 in the 1990 September issue of Sky & Telescope by a bloke called Roger Sinnott. It calculates one meridian at a time, but can easily be adapted to do 10,000. Not so easy is converting BASIC to FORTRAN, because I know nothing about BASIC. I have the feeling that Sinnott has a FORTRAN version of the programme, but have no contact for him. Do you? It would save me a lot of time if he does.

 

Yes, you would be most welcome to visit us in Christchurch again, and I am glad to see that you feel at home here. I suspect that moving a family around will require a bit more effort for you, but don't let that stop you, because we would be happy to see all of you. Please, don't choose at time when I'm away. I should be back home by July.

 

I'm sure you are aware of the 2005 opposition. What are your plans for it? Obviously, Mauna Kea will be the spot for that one, and I am trying to decide if I should make a go for it. With the wonderful experience I gained in Argentina, I feel I would be in a strong position to get some really good results. I know what to do now. To monitor the Martian atmosphere properly, I am impressed that one really needs a dedicated telescope for about two months, but it does not have to be a big one. Do you think NASA would support such an endeavor?

 

Aren't the rovers absolutely stunning? Such an exciting time. Write when you can.

Cheers,

Michael (Snowden)

 


Bill SHEEHAN (Willmar, Minnesota, USA )


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