September 22, 2010. It was a Wednesday night, and my second quarter at Medill had just begun. Earlier that day, I received the astronomy beat for my Health & Sciences reporting class, a beat I dreamed of having for months.
The cosmos had me at hello as soon as my mom taped up a diagram of the solar system in my room when I was little. Movies like Mars Attacks and Event Horizon and the TV show Star Trek: Voyager only increased my thirst for knowledge of what lies beyond.
But for the first 23 years and 9 months of my life, I really hadn’t done much about it besides check out a couple of picture books when I was in the fourth grade. So when my name was put on the same line as astronomy, I was ecstatic….
For a moment. Then I realized I had a ton of research to do. I had no idea what was going on up there. That knocked me down a notch, and by the time I was on the Red Line closing in on the Howard stop, I was pretty overwhelmed.
And then at 8:15, my classmate Brian Anderson called. A great man and an amazing journalist.
“Hey Kevin, I was reading up on the full moon tonight. It’s a Super Harvest Moon, and it’s not going to happen for another 19 years. I thought maybe you’d like to check up on it.”
There’s Brian, always looking out for me. I hadn’t done any work yet, so this seemed like a golden opportunity to get a head start. When I got home, I started to read about this so-called Super Harvest Moon- a full moon on the night that fall begins. Indeed, it hadn’t happened since the early ‘90s, and there wasn’t going to be another one until 2029. Depending on which news release you read, it was going to happen at 10:09 p.m. or 10:17 p.m. Chicago time.
Not only that, but Jupiter would be directly beneath the Moon during the equinox. And Jupiter hadn’t been this close to the Earth, a mere 388 million miles, since 1963. In other words, Jupiter was going to be a lot more visible than usual. How lucky could I be? The stars were literally aligning. It was my first few hours on the beat, and already I had a pretty big story…or so I thought. (Read more…)