Thirteen Thieves

Where To Go For The World's Best Stargazing

Cristian ThirteenComment

One of the best and my favorite times I can have with myself is the dead silence of the night and staring at the wonders the night sky offers me. It is meditative, contemplative and re-energizing to see the beauty that this world can offer.

Unfortunately for a lot of people in this world, can't see the millions of stars above us nor the Milky Way at all because of the light pollution as reported by a 2016 study (Science Advances 10 Jun 2016: Vol. 2, no. 6), found 80 percent of North America and 60 percent of Europe are disrupted by this light pollution.

The Milky Way arches over Capitol Reef National Park’s iconic Chimney Rock. Photo by Jacob W. Frank.

The Milky Way arches over Capitol Reef National Park’s iconic Chimney Rock. Photo by Jacob W. Frank.

How many stars can you see at night? If you live in a city, that number is likely pretty small. That's because modern-day lighting artificially illuminates the sky and conceals the stars from view, a phenomenon known as light pollution. To really get a feel for just how awe inspiring the night sky can be, you need to go somewhere dark—really dark. That's just what International Dark Sky Parks are there for.

The Milky Way arches over Capitol Reef National Park’s iconic Chimney Rock.

Image: Jacob W. Frank / National Park Service

The Heavens Are Hidden

On a clear, dark night, the sky lights up with millions of stars, the brightest of which form a glowing band from one horizon to the other. That band is the tiny slice of our galaxy, the Milky Way, that can be seen from Earth. Unfortunately, a 2016 study found that in a whopping 80 percent of North America and 60 percent of Europe, you can't see the Milky Way at all because of the light pollution. This isn't just a shame for stargazers; it's a real hazard for the natural world. Artificial light can disrupt bird migration, alter the behavior of insects, and mess with plants' seasonal cycles.

The International Dark-Sky Association is a nonprofit organization that's leading the charge on fighting light pollution throughout the globe. International Dark Sky Parks (IDSPs) are one way they do that. These are places specifically protected to maintain their starry nights and dark nocturnal environment, not only for the benefit of regular people, but also scientists, educators, and the cultures that call the spaces home. The best part? They're all available to the public.

This atlas shows that more than 80 percent of the world—and more than 99 percent of the U.S. and Europe—live under light-polluted skies.

Gear Up, Head Out, And Look Up

There are nearly 50 IDSPs worldwide, and more than a dozen are in the United States. Many of them are famous for their daytime beauty as well—think the Grand CanyonDeath Valley, and Big Bend National Park. If you're one of the many who has never witnessed the majesty of the Milky Way arching across the sky, we recommend you pack a bag and head out to one of these special parks.

Map of the ISA's International Dark Sky Places. C denotes a Dark Sky Community, P denotes a Dark Sky Park, and the circles denote Dark Sky Reserves.

When planning your trip, not just any gear will suffice. In the dim light of a truly dark night, the light-sensitive rods in your eyes become dark adapted, and exposure to the bright white light of a lantern or flashlight can spoil that delicate night vision for half an hour or more. For that reason, experts advise against using flashlights that emit white light. Your rods are less sensitive to red light, however, so you can use a headlamp with red LEDs to get around at night without spoiling the majesty of the starry sky above you. The Storm Headlamp from Black Diamond, for example, can emit both white light and red, green, and blue light individually. It also takes AAA Duracell batteries, so it doesn't need to be recharged.

A telescope also comes in handy for getting up close and personal with the heavens, but it's not strictly necessary—binoculars do just fine. "Binoculars allow you to use both your eyes to take in the view and in some cases resolve an object in the sky better than a telescope," reports the International Dark-Sky Association. With the proper gear and batteries in hand, you can head out and stake out a spot for stargazing. But don't forget to turn off your headlamp once you get there. You'll want to take it all in.

Source Curiosity
Words by Ashley Hamer

Love and Loss

Cristian ThirteenComment

Human beings are hungry for an ultimate understanding, some kind of cosmic communion, a treasure at the end of the rainbow, a pot of gold. We all dive through the looking-glass, we all tumble down the rabbit hole with this idea that there will be some final answer, some ultimate meaning, some noetic quality that is rendered more real than everyday literal reality. Carl Sagan the astronomer, he used to say that "understanding is a kind of ecstasy." 

We are cognitive ecstasy addicts; we are living for these peak experiences, these exhilarating neuro storms of intense intellectual pleasure. But these moments, they tend to be fleeting, part of the human conundrum is that we have these glimpses of ecstatic illumination, and then we fall back into the shadow.  For a moment the curtain parts, and what has never been seen is devoured by the eyes. It's distinct, abrupt, framed, it is already a memory. We immediately memorialize these fleeting glimpses of the eternal of the everything and fall back into ourselves, frail, finite and flawed.

What do we do? I believe the immortal words of Houston Smith who said "how might we turn our passing illuminations into abiding light, how might we render ourselves holy." we have this aspiration to engender godhood, to engender divinity to become infinite you know and there are moments right to the tune of the perfect song. When the right instruments harmonized together the right chorus resonates with your heart and with your soul, you get lost in the music you get lost in the moment, and everything becomes one. These peak experiences, these mystical encounters with the numinous what Otto called the Mysterium tremendum et fascinosum. They vindicate our faith, they make us think yes, yes, yes, there is something more and sometimes in the iris of the lover's eye and when exchanging lip-to-lip communication with a lover you think, "oh my god I could just die in your arms."

Jamie Wheel calls this the "bliss fuck crucifixion" to die into the moment, to say yes and become reborn. Joseph Campbell, the mythologist, calls this the "apotheosis" right after the supreme war, you overcome, you are renewed, you are reborn, and you realize that you are a god. But I could be wrong; it could all be biochemistry. It could all be the secretions and communication and electrical signals between neurons a rendering, a matrix of mind and meaning, that at the end of the day means nothing.  Because we die, we end up in the ground. We rot and disappear forever what the fuck! The duality of gods and worms 

What do we do? What do we do? What can we do? how do we have this dance, if we know that it's not forever Miguel de Unamuno said "Eternity! Eternity! That is the supreme desire. Nothing is real that is not eternal!," I don't have an ultimate answer. I take the plunge constantly. I meet a girl; I extend my hand to hers. I try to play the right song, I say "render a holy moment with me and have this dance." "Let's be as gods outside of time," let's commingle with one another in a space that is timeless, that is beyond self, that is beyond you or me, that becomes just us. Let 's render a holy moment. Let 's have the eternal dance.

And then love falters, then the breakup happens.  Then entropy rears its ugly head, and fuck, what do we do? we get back up and try again

Love is a Drug

Cristian ThirteenComment
The gesture of the amorous embrace seems to fulfill, for a time, the subject’s dream of total union with the loved being: The longing for consummation with the other…
— Roland Barthes

We live in an increasingly cynical age where romantic love has been distilled into algorithms of data. Where love is reduced to nothing more than the neurotransmitter, dopamine. Biochemically, no different than an addiction to cocaine. Imagine that, right? The romantic passion of the lover, reduced to a coke head on a coke binge.

There's something kind of cynical about this resignation, about letting go of that ecstasy of love that inspired the Romeo and Juliet story. The archetype of finding "The One," that is as God. These encounters with these divine beings. To put the lover on a pedestal and lose oneself in ecstatic sexual worship. A stage-managed resurrection, an apotheosis. I mean, that's the kind of love that I still crave.

That's why we still go to the movies, and we're moved to tears by moments of tenderness and beauty. Those in-between times. You know, those moments of pillow talk. An inter-subjectivity. Those moments of the happy/sad, where your lover looks at you, and you look at them, and you see yourself being seen by them. These moments, these exchanges, these intimacies, these moments of consummation, I think they still live in the back of our psyches, hinting, hinting at greater, greater intimacies. And greater exchanges, and deeper, higher fidelities of nuance and intimacy with the other. And that promise, I think, keeps us searching, and keeps us chronically dissatisfied. We will not settle. We will not let go of that romantic dream, of that moment, those goosebumps, that tenderness.