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{ Kaoru Ikeya: Otra leyenda urbana }

Hace unos días, en una bitácora de esta comunidad, se preocupaban por esas mentiras electrónicas que pueblan Internet y sobre todo el inframundo del correo electrónico. El pasado fin de semana, echándole un vistazo al número mensual de Sky & Telescope me encontré con una entrevista que David Levy hace a Kaoru Ikeya, el descubridor del cometa más brillante de los últimos siglos.

El cometa Ikeya-Seki fue descubierto en 1965 de forma independiente por un afamado astrónomo profesional Tsutomu Seki y un chaval llamado Kaoru Ikeya. Este trocito de hielo espacial se rompió en trocitos al pasar, poco después, cerca del Sol, haciéndose visible a simple vista y en pleno día a aquellos que ocultaran el disco solar con su mano. La leyenda, que escuché muchas veces en reuniones de astrónomos aficionados, dice que la familia de Ikeya atravesaba por momentos económicos muy malos. Su padre, alcohólico, condujo a sus parientes a la deshonra. Kaoru Ikeya, con un modesto telescopio, se empeñó en descubrir un cometa para restaurar el honor familiar y sacarla de la pobreza. Y por fin, esa noche del 18 de septiembre de 1965, lo había conseguido... Eso dice, la leyenda.

La verdad es bien diferente. Ikeya vive en un pueblecito de Japón, sin ningún lujo, donde apenas tiene para comprarse sus propios espejos, pulirlos y observar a través de los telescopios que él mismo construye. Nada de Internet, ni de telescopios con cámaras digitales guiados por GPS. Pero su humildad (económica y de carácter) no guarda relación alguna con la leyende que le atribuyen: aunque su padre acababa de cerrar un negocio, no era alcohólico, ni había honor familiar que restituir.

Por el contrario, Ikeya observa el cielo por placer: «Me gusta observar no solo la luna y los planetas con grandes aumentos, sino también los cúmulos de estrellas y galaxias con pocos aumentos con mi telescopio casero».

Ikeya, bastante más crecidito, volvió a descubrir otro cometa recientemente: el Ikeya-Zhang.

Publicado el 2002-06-29 | 49 Comentarios | Enlace

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