LtE in CMO #274

From Thomas A DOBBINS

. . . . . .Date: Tue, 01 July 2003 09:44:38 -0400

Subject: Contact!


Dear Masatsugu:


I received your e-mail at home just before leaving for work, so I am replying in haste from my office (in the spirit of the old Russian saying dating from the Soviet era: "We pretend to work, they pretend to pay us.") Please see my remarks inserted below...


> Dear Tom,


> I am so sorry I have been silent for a long time. I know I owe

> you for a couple of kind emails, and I know it must have been

> quite rude to be silent. There have been however a lot of

> destructive elements around me, and I have been depressive.


I'm very happy to hear from you, old friend. Rest assured, I did not mistake your silence for rudeness, but merely assumed that you have been very preoccupied with other matters.


> One thing was because I was very busy with several Mars

> matters, meetings, writings and usual routine business about

> the CMO. Did I write that I suddenly suffered from heavy

> hematuria on 19 February? Since then I often consulted the

> hospital where an attending doctor for my hypertension stays,

> but no doctor at urology could not tell the reason though they

> used supersonic, CT scanner as well as MRI. I saw last a heavy

> hematuria on 5 May (the last day of our CMO Meeting), and since

> then it seems natural for about nearly two months.


I was aware (via Bill Sheehan) that you were in poor health, but I did not know the nature or severity of your illness. I too have been plagued with health problems in recent months in the form of blood clots in my right leg. I underwent surgery late in May to remove defective veins, but I am up and walking again. I wish you a recovery as rapid as my own has been.


> Another destructive element in me was the Iraq War. I expected

> no war there, and I expected your Secretary of the State and

> Tony Blair to quit the Neo Conservatives, but they showed up

> nothing but the Uncle Toms. By the War, we supposed some

> hundreds of Bin Ladin were born in the Arabian world, but after

> the War it looks Americans forgot at last the 911. It was

> however really extraordinary to make two ultra-modern bombings

> successively in Afghanistan and Iraq. We supposed the TV

> programs in the US during the War must have been quite

> different from those we watched. Recently I read Noam Chomsky's

> Media Control, and I became more negative, though he is

> positive for the American society. On the occasion of the CMO

> Meeting we discussed about the 1938 Wells-Welles fuss about the

> Martian Invasion, and we noticed that the ruling class had

> studied deeply the masses and media control since then.

. . . . . . . .


Like Bill, I often feel rather isolated by my political views, particularly my skeptical attitude toward the recent American misadventure in Iraq. . .. . . . .


As the father of a 14-year old son, I am deeply concerned with the course of American foreign policy that at present seems determined to turn him into a soldier. As I once told you, I had no ancestors in America until rather recently, and family memories of the devastating losses of the Second World War are quite fresh -- my relatives in Germany and Yugoslavia were virtually wiped out.


In many ways I feel like a "stranger in a strange land" here - the United States is a country every bit as saturated with patriotic and religious fervor as any in the Islamic world (our local mullahs simply chose a different book than the Koran), and even though I was raised as a Roman Catholic and educated by Jesuits I have an attitude toward religion that ranges from indifference to hostility, although I retain a deep and abiding respect and affection for the Jesuits!


As I watched the invasion of Iraq unfold on television, I experienced a rather strange mixture of emotions that ranged from pride in the capabilities of the American military to an unshakable conviction that the whole affair was not only utterly unnecessary but would result in my country being widely despised around the world. I was also struck by the thought that many Germans no doubt experienced the very same emotions in 1940.


Much of my professional work as a research chemist in recent years has involved novel rocket propellants (and, it may surprise you to learn, also the isolation of anti-cancer agents from soybeans). The propellant work frequently places me in close collaboration with the military. It may gratify you to learn that in private conversations many professional military officers, even those of high rank, share our views about the Iraq invasion.


I am consoled (and you should be as well) by the fact that Iraq is certainly not the first example of utter folly in American foreign policy - witness the occupation of the Philippines in 1898 and the subsequent decision to convert the place into a colonial vassal state, resulting in a decade of brutal guerilla warfare with local insurgents. The great American writer Mark Twain had many wise and witty criticisms of that occupation that retain their value if one simply substitutes the word "Iraq" where appropriate. The nation has survived comparable idiocy in the past...


> I am still burdened with several things to be sorted out (the

> CMO is also quite belated), but I came here at Okinawa on 23

> June as it were for a change of air. I am here helped much by

> Ishadoh and Wakugawa, and am observing Mars on a rooftop of a

> high building at Naha. They provided me a good 25 cm Newtonian

> and managed for a week to make devices how to prevent the

> strong wind we are suffering these days. The sky is here good,

> and the growing Mars gives me good views. I feel sorry for the

> Fukui City Museum since they are going to prepare and open an

> exhibition of the Great Mars but I cannot help them.


> The observations however on the rooftop with a not-acclimated

> telescope are not so easy as the case made at the Fukui City

> Observatory which I used since 1954, and this night also

> Ishadoh shall come to amend something wrong about the Takahashi

> equatorial tripod (he is an engineer graduated from the

> National Ryukyu University). Naha is a very old town of the

> Ryukyu Dynasty, but the place I occupy has long been occupied

> by the US Army, and so newly developed recently. Another reason

> I chose here is because there is a large medical hospital near

> here which has been there since the occupation times, as I

> hear.


> I think I am reading your articles in S&T with interest, and

> also maybe many in the near future. I think also I read your

> comment about ToUcam or on R(G)B method, but I myself don't

> admit the composition of G from B+R, as to which I may write

> you again.


The June issue contains a popular nostalgia piece about the 1956 opposition; the August issue contains two articles, one about observing the Tharsis volcanoes, the other, inspired by the recent discussion of wedge prisms in the CMO, is about atmospheric dispersion.


> Once you kindly invited me to the ALPO convention at your Town

> to be held soon, but I am afraid I cannot come because of my

> health problem and the intensive observations of Mars in

> pursuit. I hope you will admit I will take another chance to

> see you. I also feel very sorry for Tom Cave; I am sure he also

> longed for the 2003 opposition.


You will be pleased to learn that we will have a very good group here in August that will include Walter Haas, Don Parker, Jeff Beish, Ed Grafton, Eric Ng, and Tan Wei Leong. I have arranged to take the Asian contingent to visit the Cincinnati Observatory (where the 28cm Merz refractor used by O.M. Mitchell has been very beautifully restored) and the Allegheny Observatory in Pittsburgh.


> We may make a series of observations from the end of July to

> the beginning of August to watch the area of Solis L to check

> the Martian flares here at Naha and at Kanagawa (led by

> Murakami). Since the members are few and so may almost watch

> the monitor. We would be thankful if you could give an advice

> to us to do such a team observation. I hear there will also be

> a watching at a branch of the NAO.


I'll write more extensively in a couple of days about this...


> Thank you otherwise for your kindness in sending me information

> about various things including wedge prisms and others.


> Anyway I hope I shall be able to more recover, and I hope I can

> come to write more to you soon.


> With best wishes,


> Masatsugu


. . . . . .Date: Tue, 08 July 2003 14:04:49 -0400

Subject: A few suggestions concerning observing methods


Dear Masatsugu:


In your last communication you made the following request:


"We may make a series of observations from the end of July to the beginning of August to watch the area of Solis Lacus to check the Martian flares here at Naha and at Kanagawa (led by Murakami). Since the members are few and so may almost watch the monitor. We would be thankful if you could give an advice to us to do such a team observation."


Hopefully a pall of dust will not interfere with the attempt! Based on my experiences in the Florida Keys in 2001, I offer the following advice...


Using a 30 cm Meade Schmidt-Cassegrain with a Barlow lens to provide a suitably large image scale, we found that the color video camera at our disposal (the Adirondack "Planetcam," which is very similar to if not identical to the Vixen C10-4M model) gave markedly inferior images compared to a more sensitive monochrome camera used in conjunction with a Wratten #15 yellow filter. The yellow filter greatly reduced the effects of atmospheric dispersion and gave excellent contrast of the planet's albedo features.


The appearance of the Edom flares was first noticed on the television monitor, which as you can readily imagine is a very comfortable way to observe for a prolonged period of time, as it has far more eye relief than even the most sophisticated ocular!


This summer I will be employing a small short-wave radio receiver powered by a 9-volt battery that is tuned to the precise WWV time signal transmitted by the U.S. National Bureau of Standards at a frequency of 10 MHz. (These devices are available here for about $50 and are widely used by observers of occultations.) Listening to the monotonous output on a speaker is surely a form of torture, so signal will simply be connected to the audio input connector of the VCR.


In Florida the smaller instruments (15cm Newtonians) used visually were aligned on an east-west axis and separated by distances of 10 to 20 meters. This allowed us to quickly determine that the pulsation and twinkling exhibited by the Edom flares were genuine and not spurious artifacts of turbulence in the Earth's atmosphere, as these events were seen simultaneously by the visual observers, who called out to one another "There goes another one - it's very bright now" in a fashion quite reminiscent of watching a meteor shower.


If any flares do appear, I hope that you will follow up on Audouin Dollfus' insightful suggestion to determine if their brightness changes when a polaroid filter is rotated. I'd keep such a filter installed in the ocular of one of the telescopes that will be used visually.


I would also like to make mention of a clever suggestion recently published in Sky & Telescope for detecting Phobos and Deimos. Rather than a conventional opaque occulting bar made of metal, use a strip of a deep blue or violet gelatin filter (Wratten #47) cemented to the field stop of an ocular. First calculate the diameter of Mars at the focal plane of the telescope, then cut the strip of gelatin filter slightly wider than this dimension. This little device effectively eliminates the glare from the disk of the planet but still allows the location of the planet to be determined, a valuable cue to the location of the faint satellites.


Bill Sheehan returned from New Zealand last week. I am happy to report that he will be joining our mutual friends Don Parker, Ed Grafton, Eric Ng, and Tan Wei Leong at my home in early August.


Kind regards


Tom DOBBINS (Coshocton, OH, USA)


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