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By Michael Lanza

How was your 2023? I hope you got outdoors as much as possible with the people you care about—and you enjoyed adventures that inspired you. I’m sharing in this story photos from the seven backpacking trips I took this year (in addition to the usual dayhiking, climbing, skiing, etc.). In early April, I went on a pair of three-day hikes in Arizona’s Aravaipa Canyon and on a section of the Arizona Trail that was in the midst of a wildly colorful wildflower bloom. On a two-family trip to the Canadian Rockies in late July and early August, we backpacked two amazing routes, the Skyline Trail in Jasper National Park and a piece of the Great Divide Trail into the White Goat Wilderness.

Later in August, I returned yet again to the Wind River Range for a roughly 41-mile hike that I am prepared to boldly call the best multi-day hike in the Winds (and that’s saying an awful lot). September featured a much-anticipated return to Glacier National Park for a seven-day hike complicated by an ever-present possibility in Glacier—”bear activity”—following trails I have walked before but which I think could never fail to inspire a sense of awe. And finally, in early October, two friends and I backpacked a three-day loop in southern Utah’s Escalante region that exceeded even my high expectations for it.

Tet19 047 Me on Teton Crest Trail copy cropped 3 jpg
Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here for my e-guides to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

No Name Lake in Glacier National Park.
” data-image-caption=”No Name Lake in Glacier National Park.
” data-medium-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/Gla7-134-No-Name-Lake-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg?fit=200%2C300&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/Gla7-134-No-Name-Lake-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg?fit=683%2C1024&ssl=1″ src=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/Gla7-134-No-Name-Lake-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg?resize=683%2C1024&ssl=1″ alt=”No Name Lake in Glacier National Park.” class=”wp-image-61313″ style=”aspect-ratio:0.6669921875;width:476px;height:auto” srcset=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/Gla7-134-No-Name-Lake-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg?resize=683%2C1024&ssl=1 683w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/Gla7-134-No-Name-Lake-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg?resize=200%2C300&ssl=1 200w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/Gla7-134-No-Name-Lake-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg?resize=768%2C1152&ssl=1 768w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/Gla7-134-No-Name-Lake-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg?resize=150%2C225&ssl=1 150w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/Gla7-134-No-Name-Lake-in-Glacier-National-Park.jpg?w=800&ssl=1 800w” sizes=”(max-width: 683px) 100vw, 683px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />No Name Lake in Glacier National Park.

Yea, 2023 felt like a great year for me. And picking back through my photos it year only reinforces that feeling. As always, these experiences reminded me of what’s most important in my life.

The photos in this story are favorite images from those trips. Whether you want to learn more about any of them to take them yourself or just want to find some inspiration for your adventures, I think you’ll enjoy this little escape.

Scroll through the photos and short anecdotes from each trip below. Some include links to stories about those places that I’ve already posted at The Big Outside—many of which require a paid subscription to The Big Outside to read in full, including my tips and information on how to plan and take those trips. Watch for my upcoming stories about the other places described below.
Did you miss our previous article…
https://mansbrand.com/psyche-gives-us-its-first-images-of-space/

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European Satellite ERS-2 to Reenter Earth’s Atmosphere This Week

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One of the largest reentries in recent years, ESA’s ERS-2 satellite is coming down this week.

After almost three decades in orbit, an early Earth-observation satellite is finally coming down this week. The European Space Agency’s (ESA) European Remote Sensing satellite ERS-2 is set to reenter the Earth’s atmosphere on or around Wednesday, February 21st.

Trail Blazing Mission

Launched atop an Ariane-4 rocket from the Kourou Space Center in French Guiana on April 21st, 1995, ERS-2 was one of ESA’s first Earth observation satellites. ERS-2 monitored land masses, oceans, rivers, vegetation and the polar regions of the Earth using visible light and ultraviolet sensors. The mission was on hand for several natural disasters, including the flood of the Elbe River across Germany in 2006. ERS-2 ceased operations in September 2011.

Reentry
Anatomy of the reentry of ERS-2. ESA

ERS-2 was placed in a retrograde, Sun-synchronous low Earth orbit, inclined 98.5 degrees relative to the equator. This orbit is typical for Earth-observing and clandestine spy satellites, as it allows the mission to image key target sites at the same relative Sun angle, an attribute handy for image interpretation.

Ice
ERS-2 tracks and ice floe. ESA

The Last Days of ERS-2

Reentry predictions for the satellite are centered on February 21st at 00:19 Universal Time (UT)+/- 25 hours. As we get closer, expect that time to get refined. The mass of ERS-2 at launch (including fuel) was 2,516 kilograms. Expect most of the satellite to burn up on reentry.

Orbit
The orbital path of ERS-2. Orbitron

For context, recent high profile reentries include the UARS satellite (6.5 tons, in 2011), and the massive Long March-5B booster that launched the core module for China’s Tiangong Space Station in late 2022 (weighing in at 23 tons).

ERS2
ERS-2 in the clean room on Earth prior to launch. ESA

ESA passed its first space debris mitigation policy in 2008, 13 years after ERS-2 was launched. In 2011, ESA decided to passively reenter the satellite, and began a series of 66 deorbiting maneuvers to bring its orbit down from 785 kilometers to 573 kilometers. Its fuel drained and batteries exhausted, ERS-2 is now succumbing to the increased drag of the Earth’s atmosphere as we near the peak of the current solar cycle.

North Prague Floods ERS

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Look at How Much the Sun Has Changed in Just Two Years

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The solar cycle has been reasonably well understood since 1843 when Samuel Schwabe spent 17 years observing the variation of sunspots. Since then, we have regularly observed the ebb and flow of the sunspots cycle every 11 years. More recently ESA’s Solar Orbiter has taken regular images of the Sun to track the progress as we head towards the peak of the current solar cycle. Two recently released images from February 2021 and October 2023 show how things are really picking up as we head toward solar maximum.

The Sun is a great big ball of plasma, electrically charged gas, which has the amazing property that it can move a magnetic field that may be embedded within.  As the Sun rotates, the magnetic field gets dragged around with it but, because the Sun rotates faster at the equator than at the poles, the field lines get wound up tighter and tighter.

Under this immense stressing, the field lines occasionally break, snap or burst through the surface of the Sun and when they do, we see a sunspot. These dark patches on the visible surface of the Sun are regions where denser concentrations of solar material prohibit heat flow to the visible surface giving rise to slightly cooler, and therefore darker patches on the Sun. 

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A collage of new solar images captured by the Inouye Solar Telescope, which is a small amount of solar data obtained during the Inouye’s first year of operations throughout its commissioning phase. Images include sunspots and quiet regions of the Sun, known as convection cells. (Credit: NSF/AURA/NSO)

The slow rotation of the Sun and the slow but continuous winding up of the field lines means that sun spots become more and more numerous as the field gets more distorted. Observed over a period of years the spots seem to slowly migrate from the polar regions to the equatorial regions as the solar cycle progresses.

To try and help understand this complex cycle and unlock other mysteries of the Sun, the European Space Agency launched its Solar Orbiter on 10 February 2020. Its mission to explore the Sun’s polar regions, understand what drives the 11 year solar cycle and what drives the heating of the corona, the outer layers of the Sun’s atmosphere. 

Solar Orbiter
Solar Orbiter

Images from Solar Orbiter have been released that show closeups of the Sun’s visible surface, the photosphere as it nears peak of solar activity. At the beginning of the cycle, at solar minimum in 2019, there was relatively little activity and only a few sunspots. Since then, things have been slowly increasing. The image from February 2021 showed a reasonably quiet Sun but an image taken in October last year shows that things are, dare I say, hotting up! The maximum of this cycle is expected to occur in 2025 which supports theories that the period of maximum activity could arrive a year earlier.

Understanding the cycle is not just of whimsical scientific interest, it is vital to ensure we minimise damage to ground based and orbiting systems but crucially understand impact on life on Earth.

Source : Sun’s surprising activity surge in Solar Orbiter snapshot

The post Look at How Much the Sun Has Changed in Just Two Years appeared first on Universe Today.

Did you miss our previous article…
https://mansbrand.com/how-to-get-a-permit-to-backpack-rainiers-wonderland-trail-2/

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How to Get a Permit to Backpack Rainier’s Wonderland Trail

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By Michael Lanza

Any backpacker making the substantial effort to hike the 93-mile Wonderland Trail around Washington’s Mount Rainier soon discovers why it’s one of the most popular backpacking trips in the country. Those reasons include regularly wading through some of the best wildflower meadows you’ll see anywhere, the numerous waterfalls and raging rivers gray with glacial flour—and the countless times that the most heavily glaciated peak in the Lower 48, 14,410-foot Mount Rainier, suddenly pops into view, looking impossibly massive.

That’s also why few backcountry permits are harder to get than one for the Wonderland—unquestionably one of “America’s Top 10 Best Backpacking Trips” and “The 10 Best National Park Backpacking Trips.”

If you want to backpack the Wonderland Trail this year, it’s essential that you know how to navigate the permit-application process and the strategies that can help improve your odds of getting a permit—and the time to start that process is now.

Tet19 047 Me on Teton Crest Trail copy cropped 27 jpg
Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here for my e-guides to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

Backpackers in Moraine Park on the Wonderland Trail, Mount Rainier National Park.
” data-image-caption=”Jeff Wilhelm and Todd Arndt in Moraine Park on the Wonderland Trail, Mount Rainier National Park.
” data-medium-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Rain6-056-Jeff-Wilhelm-and-Todd-Arndt-in-Moraine-Park-on-the-Wonderland-Trail-Mount-Rainier-National-Park..jpg?fit=200%2C300&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Rain6-056-Jeff-Wilhelm-and-Todd-Arndt-in-Moraine-Park-on-the-Wonderland-Trail-Mount-Rainier-National-Park..jpg?fit=683%2C1024&ssl=1″ src=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Rain6-056-Jeff-Wilhelm-and-Todd-Arndt-in-Moraine-Park-on-the-Wonderland-Trail-Mount-Rainier-National-Park..jpg?resize=683%2C1024&ssl=1″ alt=”Backpackers in Moraine Park on the Wonderland Trail, Mount Rainier National Park.” class=”wp-image-42741″ style=”width:426px;height:638px” srcset=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Rain6-056-Jeff-Wilhelm-and-Todd-Arndt-in-Moraine-Park-on-the-Wonderland-Trail-Mount-Rainier-National-Park..jpg?resize=683%2C1024&ssl=1 683w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Rain6-056-Jeff-Wilhelm-and-Todd-Arndt-in-Moraine-Park-on-the-Wonderland-Trail-Mount-Rainier-National-Park..jpg?resize=200%2C300&ssl=1 200w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Rain6-056-Jeff-Wilhelm-and-Todd-Arndt-in-Moraine-Park-on-the-Wonderland-Trail-Mount-Rainier-National-Park..jpg?resize=768%2C1152&ssl=1 768w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Rain6-056-Jeff-Wilhelm-and-Todd-Arndt-in-Moraine-Park-on-the-Wonderland-Trail-Mount-Rainier-National-Park..jpg?w=800&ssl=1 800w” sizes=”(max-width: 683px) 100vw, 683px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />Jeff Wilhelm and Todd Arndt in Moraine Park on the Wonderland Trail, Mount Rainier National Park.

This story will explain the procedure for obtaining a permit to backpack Mount Rainier’s Wonderland Trail and offer tips on how to maximize your chances of success, sharing expertise I’ve acquired from multiple trips on the WT and in Mount Rainier National Park over the past three decades, including the 10 years I spent as Northwest Editor of Backpacker magazine and even longer running this blog.

See my feature story (which requires a paid subscription to The Big Outside to read in full) about my most-recent trip on much of the WT, a 77-mile route that combines what I consider the trail’s best sections and alternate segments, plus “5 Reasons You Must Backpack Mount
Did you miss our previous article…
https://mansbrand.com/even-eris-and-makemake-could-have-geothermal-activity/

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