Friday, January 4, 2008

As Dark As Osama's Soul

It's been really really dark around here for the past couple of nights. The night sky where I've been in Afghanistan is usually a thing of wonder; more stars than I've ever seen before, anywhere. I've been in some remote spots, but for some reason the night sky in Afghanistan, at least the parts I've been in, shows more stars than I've ever seen in my life. The Milky Way is a brilliant smear across the sky, and the stars shine so brightly that some constellations are hard to pick out.

Some are so perfectly defined that it's almost unbelievable. Where I am right now, we lose the direct sun at about 1545. It's pretty dark by 1700. By a little after 1800, Orion is coming over the mountain, canted so that he looks like a high jumper straining over the mountain in super slow-motion; arms outstretched, working to get his legs over the rocky bar.

This is the best place that I know of to see falling stars, too. Just wait a couple of minutes... there'll be one. It's amazing. Watching satellites is always amazing, too. There are lots of places where you can see those, but it seems like you see more of them here, too. It's as if the night sky is magnified here. The total lack of light pollution explains part of it, but somehow the Hindu Kush forms the atmosphere into a lens. The Hindu Kush forces the sky into a squint.

I think that the twinkle factor is highly underrated. From here, some of the stars actually seem more like police lights far off in the distance. There's one star that I swear alternates between blue and red in its dramatic display of twinkling. High twinkle factor there.

Now there's something I bet is pretty unexpected coming from an Infantryman. Twinkle factor. Hmmm. What else are you going to call it?

That's my story and I'm sticking with it. I don't know why, but the night sky here just impresses the hell out of me. It's something that I stop and look at every single night.

Except the last couple of nights.

It's been overcast, and there hasn't been much of a moon. The moon is waning fast, and it doesn't come up until late at night; it's been as dark as Osama's soul out there. I physically held my hand in front of my own face last night just to make sure. Nope, couldn't see it. I'm calling the ball on that one; it was officially so dark you couldn't see your own hand in front of your face.

Probably no stupid human tricks for the next few nights. It's a strong tendency that they like to stir things up when the moon is nice and bright.

The moon is another story. When the moon is out here, it's so bright that it's unreal. Everything is still in shades of gray, but very distinct shadows are cast, as if everything were being shot through one of those lenses they used to shoot night scenes for movies with during the daytime. Night vision goggles are actually kind of a disadvantage on those nights, because of the tunnel vision effect. On the moonlit nights, the stars are not nearly as visible. The moon is so bright that it actually hurts your eyes if you look directly at it.

We haven't had that problem lately. For now, we will enjoy the upside... peaceful nights are most likely.

But I find myself missing the stars.


  1. obviously, it takes a real man to even notice twinkle factor.

  2. I enjoy your posts and your manner of writing. It's such a shame that so many in America (who live in large metro areas) have no idea what you are describing about the stars, their twinkle factor, appearance of reds and blues. I've been fortunate to visit places on earth where you feel as though you can reach up and grab a star.

    While the ability to view the stars as you can on clear nights there in Afghanistan I pray for many cloudy nights. As you know there are so many Soldiers there who need the respite from the intense fire fights of the enemy.

    Prayers for and blessing to all of you for the choice you have made to defend and protect this nation.

  3. I've seen a night sky like that once, in Austin TX. In the northeast the skies are dimmed by the lights of the nearby cities. When I leave for work (mids) I always look up before I jump in the truck... Nothing more soothing to the soul than to remember that we are very small in comparison to what lies in the outer limits....

  4. The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 01/07/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.


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