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It’s wonderful to watch the fascination on people’s faces when you explain to them that studying distant objects in the Universe means looking back in time! Reach out to the furthest corners of the Cosmos and you can see objects so far away that the light left them long before our Solar System even existed. With the commissioning of the JWST the race was on to push the boundaries even further and hunt down the most distant galaxy in the Universe and maybe even the first galaxies to ever have formed.

JWST was launched back in December 2021 on board an Ariane 5 rocket.  It arrived at its final destination 1.5 million kilometres from Earth and from there, began operations. Among many other things it has focussed its attention on Pandora’s Cluster in Sculptor, using its Near Infrared Camera.  Individual exposures of 4-6 hours were captured totalling 30 hours of data to build a ‘deep-field’ image of the area.

Artist impression of the James Webb Space Telescope against a black background
Artist impression of the James Webb Space Telescope (Credit : NASA)

The particularly portion of the sky was chosen because of the presence of several galaxy clusters that would act as gravitational lenses, providing a natural magnification of more distant objects. The final image revealed 60,000 objects which were narrowed down to 700 and final 8 that were thought to be among the first galaxies in the Universe. 

Alas not quite, but second most distant galaxy (named Uncover Z-13) had been discovered, at a staggering distance of 33 billion light years. That last statement may jar with some of you because we know the Universe is 13.77 billion years old so how can we have a galaxy at a distance of 33 billion light years? It’s not an error, the light from Z-13 left when the Universe was only 330 million years old. It has then travelled for 13.4 billion years to reach us but in that time the Universe has expanded, dragging the galaxy along with it so it is now at an estimated distance of 33 billion light years.

The team revealed another galaxy which ranked fourth in the distance table but what surprised the researchers from the multi-national team was that they large compared to other galaxies at this distance. I should note not large by galaxies that we see in today’s Universe, Z-13 (and Uncover Z-12) are around 2,000 light years across in comparison to the Milky Way which is about 100,000 light years across. The early Universe was much smaller and galaxies were smaller and compressed by comparison. At these distance, galaxies usually appear as a red spot in images but, due to their larger size, these two appear more like a fluffy balls as described by the researchers who published their paper in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters. 

Studying galaxies at these distances allows us to explore the early Universe and learn more about its evolution. Decoding their light (using spectroscopic instruments) which has travelled through the rarefied hydrogen gas that permeated the early Universe is just one way that we can use distance galaxies to try to understand the particles that existed and physics that governed the Universe shortly after the Big Bang. 

Source : Second-most distant galaxy discovered using James Webb Space Telescope

The post A Galaxy Seen When the Universe was Only 332 Million Years Old appeared first on Universe Today.

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The 10 Best Backpacking Packs of 2024

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By Michael Lanza

Backpacks come in many sizes and designs for a reason: so do backpackers. Some of us need a pack for moderate loads, some for heavy loads, and others, increasingly, for lightweight or ultralight backpacking. Some prefer a minimalist pack, others a range of features and access. Everyone wants the best possible fit and comfort, and almost everyone has a budget. But no matter which type of backpacker you are, this review covers the best packs in each of those categories.

Each of my picks for the 10 best backpacking packs stands out for different reasons. I also point out two excellent packs for kids and small adults (at the bottom of the Gregory Paragon/Maven review). My judgments draw from many thousands of miles and more than three decades of backpacking and a quarter-century of testing and reviewing gear—including the 10 years I spent as the lead gear reviewer for Backpacker magazine and even longer running this blog. Few reviewers have lugged as many packs around the backcountry as me.

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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.

The Granite Gear Blaze 60 in the Grand Canyon.
” data-image-caption=”Testing the Granite Gear Blaze 60 in the Grand Canyon. Click photo to read about “the best backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon.”
” data-medium-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Granite-Gear-Blaze-60-lead-2.jpg?fit=300%2C200&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Granite-Gear-Blaze-60-lead-2.jpg?fit=900%2C600&ssl=1″ src=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Granite-Gear-Blaze-60-lead-2.jpg?resize=900%2C600&ssl=1″ alt=”The Granite Gear Blaze 60 in the Grand Canyon.” class=”wp-image-33676″ srcset=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Granite-Gear-Blaze-60-lead-2.jpg?resize=1024%2C683&ssl=1 1024w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Granite-Gear-Blaze-60-lead-2.jpg?resize=300%2C200&ssl=1 300w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Granite-Gear-Blaze-60-lead-2.jpg?resize=768%2C512&ssl=1 768w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Granite-Gear-Blaze-60-lead-2.jpg?resize=1080%2C720&ssl=1 1080w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Granite-Gear-Blaze-60-lead-2.jpg?w=1200&ssl=1 1200w” sizes=”(max-width: 900px) 100vw, 900px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />Testing the Granite Gear Blaze 60 in the Grand Canyon. Click photo to read about “the best backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon.”

I’m confident at least one of these packs will be perfect for you—plus you’ll find the best prices for them through the affiliate links to online retailers below. Purchasing gear through my affiliate links supports my work on this blog. Thanks for doing that.

I’ve listed the pack reviews below in order by weight because that’s the metric that most defines and influences a pack’s design and functionality. The ratings admittedly tend to favor more-featured packs, which are heavier, and that may not meet your needs; use the ratings as a comparison with packs of similar weight. The pack you ultimately choose may depend partly on weight, but also on design and on your budget. Each pack review in this article links to that pack’s complete review at The Big Outside.

A backpacker above Toxaway Lake, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho.
” data-image-caption=”Testing the Osprey Aura AG 65 in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains. Click photo to read about the best backpacking trip in the Sawtooths.
” data-medium-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside
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Hike the World’s Most Beautiful Trail: The Alta Via 2

Tet19 047 Me on Teton Crest Trail copy cropped jpg

By Michael Lanza

Hiking toward a mountain pass named Furcela dia Roa, on the first day of my family’s weeklong, hut-to-hut trek on the Alta Via 2 in northern Italy’s Dolomite Mountains, we stopped in an open meadow of grass and wildflowers overlooking a deep, verdant valley in Puez-Odle Natural Park. Across the valley loomed a wall of cliffs topped by jagged spires, like a castle a thousand feet tall. I looked at our map and back up at the stone wall before us, puzzled. After a moment, I realized: We have to get over that wall.

Scanning the vertiginous earth before us, I eventually picked out the trail snaking across the head of the valley and making dozens of switchbacks up a finger of scree, talus, and snow leading to the lowest notch in that wall: the Furcela dia Roa, the pass we had to cross.

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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-books to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

A family trekking the Alta Via 2 in Parco Naturale Puez-Odle, Dolomite Mountains, Italy.
” data-image-caption=”My family trekking to Furcela dia Roa on the Alta Via 2 in Parco Naturale Puez-Odle, Dolomite Mountains, Italy.
” data-medium-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Dolo1-019-Hiking-to-Furcela-dia-Roa-Alta-Via-2-Parco-Naturale-Puez-Odle-Dolomites-Italy-copy.jpg?fit=300%2C199&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Dolo1-019-Hiking-to-Furcela-dia-Roa-Alta-Via-2-Parco-Naturale-Puez-Odle-Dolomites-Italy-copy.jpg?fit=900%2C598&ssl=1″ src=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Dolo1-019-Hiking-to-Furcela-dia-Roa-Alta-Via-2-Parco-Naturale-Puez-Odle-Dolomites-Italy-copy.jpg?resize=900%2C598&ssl=1″ alt=”A family trekking the Alta Via 2 in Parco Naturale Puez-Odle, Dolomite Mountains, Italy.” class=”wp-image-26784″ srcset=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Dolo1-019-Hiking-to-Furcela-dia-Roa-Alta-Via-2-Parco-Naturale-Puez-Odle-Dolomites-Italy-copy.jpg?resize=1024%2C680&ssl=1 1024w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Dolo1-019-Hiking-to-Furcela-dia-Roa-Alta-Via-2-Parco-Naturale-Puez-Odle-Dolomites-Italy-copy.jpg?resize=300%2C199&ssl=1 300w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Dolo1-019-Hiking-to-Furcela-dia-Roa-Alta-Via-2-Parco-Naturale-Puez-Odle-Dolomites-Italy-copy.jpg?resize=768%2C510&ssl=1 768w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Dolo1-019-Hiking-to-Furcela-dia-Roa-Alta-Via-2-Parco-Naturale-Puez-Odle-Dolomites-Italy-copy.jpg?resize=1080%2C717&ssl=1 1080w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Dolo1-019-Hiking-to-Furcela-dia-Roa-Alta-Via-2-Parco-Naturale-Puez-Odle-Dolomites-Italy-copy.jpg?resize=200%2C133&ssl=1 200w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Dolo1-019-Hiking-to-Furcela-dia-Roa-Alta-Via-2-Parco-Naturale-Puez-Odle-Dolomites-Italy-copy.jpg?resize=670%2C445&ssl=1 670w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Dolo1-019-Hiking-to-Furcela-dia-Roa-Alta-Via-2-Parco-Naturale-Puez-Odle-Dolomites-Italy-copy.jpg?w=1200&ssl=1 1200w” sizes=”(max-width: 900px) 100vw, 900px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />My family trekking to Furcela dia Roa on the Alta Via 2 in Parco Naturale Puez-Odle, Dolomite Mountains, Italy.

It was our first encounter with a lesson that would repeat itself many times over the course of our week of hiking on the Alta Via 2: These mountains are so steep and rocky that the trail often traverses ground that, from a distance, looks impassable without ropes and climbing gear.

But in reality, my family, including our young kids, were perfectly comfortable with the exposure, we never
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An AI Simulated Interactions Between Different Kinds of Advanced Civilizations

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The possibility for life beyond the Earth has captivated us for hundreds of years. It has been on the mind of science fiction writers too as our imaginations have explored the myriad possibilities of extraterrestrial life. But what would it really be like if/when we finally meet one; would it lead to war or peace? Researchers have used a complex language model to simulate the first conversations with civilisations from pacifists to militarists and the outcomes revealed interesting challenges.

The first radio transmissions were made in 1895 and since then the signals, however weak have been leaking out into space. The first intentional transmission out into space was the Arecibo message of 1974 that was sent toward the globular cluster M13 22,180 light years away. That means the signal won’t arrive there for about another 22,131 years! During this time of course, all the signals have been leaking out but the further they travel, the weaker they get. Its likely then that any signals out to a distance of about 100 light years is likely to be so weak as to not be detectable. 

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The Arecibo Radio Telescope Credit: UCF

It would be so easy to be dragged into other areas of debate about aliens but it feels useful to set the scene of how difficult it will be to make contact or rather, how likely it may be. Assume then, that in some way, we do find ourselves making communication with an alien civilisation. Just how that conversation goes has been modelled by a team led by Mingyu Jin from Northwestern University.

The team used a new artificial intelligence framework known as CosmoAgent to simulate the interaction based upon the unique Large Language Model (LLM). The system uses a Multi-Agent System to enable modelling among a diverse range of civilisations. The civilisations have the ability to choose their own character traits from hiding, fighting or collaborating. This dynamic environment allows for a plethora of outcomes from alliances forming, adherence to rules to rivalries to how a civilisation might respond to an unforeseen event.

Diversity and conditions for life were also inherent in the modelling using transition matrices to analyse how civilisations might grow and change over time. This natural progression of an intelligent life form would inevitably mean ethics, morals, beliefs and sciences would develop along a varied path. These different frameworks would hugely effect just how such a civilisation might respond to alien contact.

There are limitations to the research though, largely from an Earth-centric bias developing the language model. The use of mathematics and algorithms to compute responses and outcomes may not cover the full spectrum of inter-civilisation responses. After all, we cannot even distill our own emotional responses down to a set of algorithms. Add in a speculative set of principles of an alien civilisation, of which, we have no evidence or experience to draw upon.

It is hoped that future research can address these obstacles and develop better models of inter-civilisational interaction. Taking into account a broader range of ethical paradigms and decision making processes to provide a more realistic simulation of just how first contact may just play out.

Source : What if LLMs Have Different World Views: Simulating Alien Civilizations with LLM-based Agents

The post An AI Simulated Interactions Between Different Kinds of Advanced Civilizations appeared first on Universe Today.

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