It’s been a very long while since I last talked much on the topic of astronomy. Two main reasons are that I have had very little time for astronomy this summer, and even then the sky conditions were so unusually and uniformly bad that there really was no point. Atmospheric instability dominated July and August so most of our regularly scheduled star parties throughout the summer were canceled ! Well, that changed for two short weekends recently when we had no moon, a dark sky and a very stable and transparent sky condition. Finally!
On September 17th and 18th we had our annual star party at Rurikei and we were surprised by how beautiful the night became and by the enormous crowd of novices we were able to interest. The same thing happened on September 24th and 25th in Mie Prefecture. Over a thousand people showed up both Sunday nights and at least 250 astronomers displaying 400+ telescopes were present in addition to all the major shops and Japanese makers. Last weekend, I organized a star party with a large group of novice first timers. Taking a first-timer out under a superb sky with a large telescope can be a very gratifying experience. People have built-in expectations, and mixed with a severe lack of experience and knowledge such folks are surely to be wowed, but only by a guide who really knows what to do. The same is true for scuba diving, sailing, mountain climbing and fishing.
So the big discussion that came up that night was whether the winter was better than summer for astronomy. Well, there is a tendency to believe that winter will have clearer, more transparent skies, but in Japan the sky condition can never be predicted that well, and any season therefore has some good potential for observing. Once we get the typhoons behind us it should be wonderful!
Martin Werner Zander, Partner in the Smith’s School of English Company
Owner Operator, Smith’s Franchise in Kotoen