Saturn Safari

Screen shot 2013-12-05 at 12.15.27 PMS: I saw Saturn through a telescope for the first time while in my Observing the Night Sky class as a visiting student at Rice University. It, unlike my performance in the class I had the privilege of auditing, was perfect.

A:  You could show me a perfect diamond or demand perfection in my work, but I will never believe perfection is possible, except for what I saw in Saturn. It was so beautiful and had such a stark contrast of banded rings. The flat view through the eyepiece looked like a bad 1950’s science fiction print of the unknowable cosmos. But through this flaw I saw nothing but perfection. What drew me to that class was to strive for perfection of balance between work and life, and to spend some quality time with my flaws to improve them. Of the many flaws I navigated through this semester, my astronomy scores remained perfectly flawed.

F: I discovered how difficult it is to set up a telescope, find constellations (all I see are dots), see through light pollution, and to communicate with the same ease my down to earth professor did about the magic in our sky. Perhaps I learned everything I needed to know: astronomers navigated through amazing feats of knowledge and patient observation to get us where we are, and that astronomy is really hard.

A:  But I had so much fun. I discovered how flawed my understanding of the universe is. I’ve TAUGHT about the solar system, space travel, and even about Saturn like I’ve visited it myself on Cassini-Huygens. Yet I learned, more painfully now than before, how little I actually know about the universe’s flaws and perfection.

R: I resolved to celebrate the flaws in us that guide us through a path toward perfection, or Saturn. The heroins in all of my favorite stories do this as they navigate through unbelievable struggles, so must I. And to keep humble, which has nothing to do with flaws or perfection but sits comfortably within either extreme.

I: My favorite Dr. Dufour-ism:“Earth is arguably the most beautiful planet in our solar system, and certainly the most behaved.” I agree.

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