LtE in CMO #263

From Thomas A DOBBINS

. . . . . . . Dear Masatsugu:


Attached please find another historical essay on an observational mystery that you may find interesting. This too will be a chapter in the forthcoming book on the history of planetary observing. It is an example, I believe, of the maxim: "What we see is beautiful, what we know is more beautiful, but most beautiful of all is what we do not yet understand." (Niels Stensen (1638-1686), Danish anatomist, geologist, and founder of paleontology)

Kind regards,

(24 July 2002 email)


(Note) The attached article is entitled THE LOST RING OF SATURN and begins as: "In a routine summary of the observations of Saturn made at his private observatory at Juvisy-sur-Orges during the planet's 1899 apparition, the French astronomer Camille Flammarion commented on the unusual diffuse appearance of the outer edge of Ring A that year. Through his 10.2-inch Bardou refractor it was "in no wise sharply defined, but seemed to shade off rather gently into space…….." This is similar to but different from the interesting telling about Emile SCHAER as shown in S&T Feb 2002 p102. (Ed)


. . . . . . .Subject: Re: RE:W.H. Pickering


Dear Masatsugu:


  I am only too happy to provide you with an inscribed copy of Epic Moon, which I am very hopeful that you will enjoy. Its 400 pages represent almost five years of my work with Bill Sheehan. (Without Bill the book would have been utterly impossible. Our talents are complementary and our temperaments are quite opposite, yet our writing styles are very compatible and cannot be distinguished by most readers. I could not be more fortunate in my choice of co-authors.)

I was thinking of you just minutes ago as I sat on the back porch enjoying the evening meal under the open sky with my family while watching the sunset. My wife and I enjoyed a glass of Fu-Ki Japanese plum wine, one of our favorites. Its delicious flavor is very similar to "Slivovits" plum brandy, the national drink of my Serbian ancestors. (Like most Americans, I am of mixed ancestry -- in my case Irish, German, and Serbian. By a remarkable coincidence, Bill is of very similar lineage.)

Your friend,

(24 July 2002 email)


. . . . . . .Dear Masatsugu:


Please see my comments below・・・・・


> One thing I always admire and respect concerning

>your articles is that you and Bill found your discus-

>sions on the original references and scarcely use the



We both have access to excellent university libraries, and I have spent a small fortune amassing a library of 19th and early 20th century books about the planets, most in English, but quite a few in German and French as well. (Many of these books are rare; some are deservedly rare!) Bill often travels to inspect observatory archives and observing logs, and has turned up many unexpected gems in this fashion.


>I suppose this attitude leads you to new and fresh con-

>clusions as you both prove. This looks to me some-

>thing different from the American Pragmatism and

>makes me smell a flavour of an International sense. I

>wonder if it may have its root in the ancestry Europe.


It is perceptive of you to mention this. I had no ancestors in the USA before 1900, and many only arrived after World War II (after serving on the losing side). When I was a boy I was exposed to many relatives who had not yet mastered the English language and acquired the outlook that I was essentially a European who by chance happened to live in the USA. Many of my closest non-astronomical friends are European immigrants.


Speaking of national characteristics, I recently examined drawings of Mars by various observers during the 1963 and 1965 apparitions and was able to pick out those by Ichiro Tasaka at a glance. (The drawings were arranged according to date, so those by various individuals were randomly coming led.) To my eye, Tasaka's depictions of the planet with his 13-inch Newtonian are strikingly beautiful and seem to convey some artistic quality that is quintessentially Japanese, although I can't describe in words what this ineffable characteristic may be. Consequently I have been thinking about not only the individual styles of various observers in drawing the planets, but of possible subtle national tendencies as well.


>It is good to hear Tom and Bill are complementary

>(and amusing to hear that your temperaments are quite

>opposite). Just what I can't imagine is that you are

>good and skilful at engineering: you have appeared to

>me as a man of letter. I like the sentences and their

>conciseness in "Observing and Photographing the Solar



The fundamental difference is that Bill writes very rapidly and effortlessly. Unlike me, he also types very rapidly, so a veritable torrent of words seems to flow mysteriously from him like water from a spring. For me, however, writing is a very difficult and time-consuming task that usually requires two or three revisions before I am satisfied with the result.

I have packaged Epic Moon and the Pickering article, as well as a copy of The Book of Mars by Samuel Glasstone (published by NASA in 1968) that I acquired recently for a pittance. If you already own a copy of this, perhaps one of your colleagues would enjoy it. The package will be mailed on Monday.

Kind regards,

(27 July 2002 email)


○・・・・・・・・Dear Masatsugu:


A few comments inserted below...


> The Epic Moon book is really beautiful and I should

>like to send first of all my congratulations to the au-

>thors for their fine accomplishment.


Thank you. This is high praise indeed from a wise elder "kindred spirit." I am confidant that you will enjoy its many stories, and I look forward to the day a year hence when I can present you with a copy of its analog about the planets. When writing EPIC MOON we worked in the following spirit: If a reader has never read anything about the subject, he will still be able to follow the text, but if a reader has read every work on the subject, he will still glean new information.


>W Pickering is here rather believed as a wise observer

>and respected among our Mars observers because he is

>known here as a person who established the alternation

>theory of the Martian polar caps. I don't know how he

>established since I have never read his original papers,


I will gladly copy and send some of Pickering's Martian and lunar articles to you.

. . . . . . . . . . . .

(9 August 2002 email)


. . . . . . .Date: Mon, 19 Aug 2002 18:16:33 -0400

From: "Tom & Karen Dobbins" <>

To: <>

Cc: "Don Parker" <>

Subject: Schiaparelli Crater (Edom Promontorium) and Flares


Dear Masatsugu:


Please see:


Interesting, and suggestive that this region may be "special" despite the rather mundane appearance of its topography at low and medium resolution.

Kind regards,

(19 August 2002 email)


Tom DOBBINS (Coshocton, OH, USA)

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