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Saturn and Cocktails Are a Wonderful Mix

In my two years as a student journalist, I’ve covered a lot of things I’d rather not remember.

I’ve reported on a quintuple homicide, the death of a teenager, the near-death of a college, firings, scandals and so many sad things that I’m surprised you haven’t clicked off this page yet.

But last night at Sky Bar in Tucson, Ariz., I covered something I hope to remember for the rest of my life.

I saw Saturn.

Yes, that Saturn.

Fellow Institute journalist Paul Ingram and I had finished our reporting for the night at Sky Bar, taken our photos and interviewed our sources. We found space enthusiasts excited to discuss Pima County’s beautifully light-free skies.

Sky Bar was the perfect place: High-definition screens display colorful space imagery and a telescope the size of a long coffee table sits on the patio.

Rum and Cokes in hand, Paul and I moseyed up to Wendy, the energetic amateur-astronomer who was pointing out different portions of the sky to locals.

Saturn as viewed through an iPhone, pressed to the lens of a telescope at Sky Bar in Tucson, Ariz. Joe Fitzgerald | NYT Institute

Then it was my turn.

“Do you want to see Saturn?” she asked, with an air of the everyday.

I did a double take, almost a spit-take; and with my dignity somehow intact, I said, “of course!”

I leaned into the eyepiece, and the gears between my ears clicked and whirred, refusing to process the thought of another world.

Seriously? Is this what Saturn looks like? This small ringed circle, a blazing dime over a sheet of black, just absolutely floored me.

Maybe it was the rum, but I don’t think so.

As a reporter I spend so much time with my eyes earthbound, my thoughts on the everyday. Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines. Politics, police, school officials. What’s the dirt? Get it in! Get it in! Publish. And repeat.

But there’s more than Tucson. There’s more than my home of San Francisco. And there’s more than just Earth out there.

And last night I saw it.

The next time I find myself knee-deep in the saddest worlds that news can take me to, I’ll turn to Saturn.

It will give me hope.