Illustration by Glenn Harvey

Along with the Top 5 Longreads of the week, we’re proud to bring you an “Atlas of the Cosmos” by Shannon Stirone.

If you love space and exploration and maps, you’re going to enjoy Shannon’s story. She travels to Kitt Peak observatory to meet DESI, the high-powered telescope that’s working on mapping the entirety of the cosmos, one galaxy at a time. Yes, the entire cosmos.

Shannon’s written previously for us on space. Be sure to read “The Hunt for Planet Nine.”

The quest might seem a bit nonsensical. Why does it matter when or how the universe began? Why does it matter when or how it ends? It matters for the same reason your locations throughout your life carry context for who you are. We exist on a timeline together — we pop into existence and then one day we stop. It matters for the same reason one of the first questions you learn to ask in another language is, “where are you from?” To know where you are at any given time is a frame of reference in which to measure your life in some way and in many ways those locations, those slices of time, hold a great deal of meaning.

Read An Atlas of the Cosmos


This week, we’re sharing stories from Hannah Dreier, Doug Bock Clark, Samanth Subramanian, Michael Hobbes, Jonathan Cohn, Kate Sheppard, Alex Kaufman, Delphine D’Amora, Chris D’Angelo, and Emily Peck, and Kris Willcox and Michelle Ruiz.
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1. What to Do About Ahav?

Hannah Dreier | The Washington Post | October 24, 2020 | 18 minutes (4,600 words)

“A mother’s fight to save a Black, mentally ill 11-year-old boy in a time of a pandemic and rising racial unrest.”

2. Arrested, Tortured, Imprisoned: The U.S. Contractors Abandoned in Kuwait

Doug Bock Clark | The New York Times Magazine | October 28, 2020 | 34 minutes (8,500 words)

“Dozens of military contractors, most of them Black, have been jailed in the emirate—some on trumped-up drug charges. Why has the American government failed to help them?”

3. Data Disappeared

Samanth Subramanian, Michael Hobbes, Jonathan Cohn, Kate Sheppard, Alex Kaufman, Delphine D’Amora, Chris D’Angelo, Emily Peck | HuffPost Highline | October 29, 2020 | 46 minutes (11,700 words)

Over nearly four years, the Trump administration has “defunded, buried, and constrained dozens of federal research and data collection projects across multiple agencies and spheres of policy: environment, agriculture, labor, health, immigration, energy, the census.” This is an accounting of the damage.

4. The Alhambra

Kris Willcox | Kenyon Review | October 28, 2020 | 14 minutes (3,639 words)

“A long time ago, I took a vacation because I thought I was irreparably broken, when, in fact, I was simply normal. Lonely, and waiting for the future. In other words, alive.”

5. AOC’s Next Four Years

Michelle Ruiz | Vanity Fair | October 28, 2020 | 22 minutes (5,611 words)

“The history-making congresswoman addresses her biggest critics, the challenges that loom no matter who wins, and what she’s taking on next.”