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Artist's concept of Chinese Space Station Telescope (CSST).  Credit: Jaimito130805, CC BY-SA 4.0
Artist’s concept of the Chinese Space Station Telescope (CSST). Credit: Jaimito130805, CC BY-SA 4.0

Distant galaxies, dark matter, dark energy, and the origin and evolution of the universe itself are some of the many scientific goals of China’s newly announced space telescope. If all goes according to plan, the China Space Station Telescope (CSST) will blast off atop a Long March 5B rocket sometime in late 2023. Once in a safe orbit, CSST should begin observations in 2024. Judging by these research topics, it looks like the Chinese Academy of Sciences is throwing down an impressive scientific gauntlet for itself and its astronomers.

What It Means to Have a Space Telescope

Owning and operating a space telescope really opens the doors to a treasury of information about the universe. Certainly, that’s what motivated the creation of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). The dream of cosmic exploration motivated Hermann Oberth in the 1920s to write semi-science-fictional treatises about orbiting telescopes on asteroids. In his view, astronomers would live and work in space while using the telescope for extended periods of time. Their view would be unobstructed by Earth and its atmosphere. That vision inspired a number of later scientists to start planning a space telescope for real. Their work culminated in HST, the first of the so-called “Great Observatories” lofted to orbit. The others are Chandra X-Ray Observatory, Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, and Spitzer Space Telescope.

NASA's Great Observatories (CGRO, Chandra, HST and Spitzer) & the electromagnetic thermometer scale. X-rays are associated with high temperatures of about 10 million - 100 million K (Credit: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss)
NASA’s Great Observatories (CGRO, Chandra, HST and Spitzer) with the electromagnetic thermometer scale. X-Rays are associated with high temperatures of about 10 million – 100 million K (Credit: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss)

Scientifically, orbiting space telescopes offer huge payoffs across a wide range of the electromagnetic spectrum. For example, before HST, no one really had a good idea of the extent of galaxies in the Universe. The famous Hubble Deep Field views let astronomers observe stars and galaxies as they were shortly after the Big Bang, in both visible and infrared light. HST revealed glimpses of the large-scale structure in the cosmos and objects as small as exoplanets, comets, and asteroids. All the Great Observatories set the stage for new generations of orbiting instruments, such as the James Webb Space Telescope, the European Space Agency’s GAIA, NASA’s WISE telescope, and now, the CSST.

China Enters the Space Telescope Fray

Given the potential scientific rewards, it’s not surprising that China is joining the “big space telescope club”. It’s also a source of national pride, especially if they can “out-Hubble Hubble”. For example, once CSST is operational, Chinese scientists hope to survey the sky and observe more than a billion galaxies. Their instruments should let them get highly precise measurements of galaxy shapes, positions, and brightnesses. They’ll use the telescope to go after exoplanets, starbirth regions, and other distant objects, gathering incredible amounts of high-resolution data.

China’s astronomers hope their telescope will provide, as HST has done and JWST will do, more insight into the extent and distribution of dark matter. It might even give them better clues about the dark energy that affects the expansion of the Universe. And, as HST and other telescopes have been, CSST will be a point of inspiration. It will, its designers hope, show new generations of Chinese scientists how to explore the cosmos.

Explore CSST: a Next-generation Space Telescope

So, what do we know about CSST? Picture in your mind a giant orbiting observatory. It’s about the length of a three-story building and the width of a school bus. It has a 2-meter aperture and a three-mirror array set in an off-axis configuration. This observatory has a state-of-the-art survey camera, multi-channel imager, integral field

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Juice is Fully Deployed. It’s Now in its Final Form, Ready to Meet Jupiter’s Moons in 2031



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Launched on April 14, 2023, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (Juice; formerly known as JUICE) spacecraft has finally completed the unfurling of its solar panel arrays and plethora of booms, probes, and antennae while en route to the solar system’s largest planet.

However, Juice’s first six weeks in space haven’t been so smooth, as its Radar for Ice Moons Exploration (RIME) antenna became stuck and unable to deploy, but the engineers successfully deployed RIME after working the problem for over a month. The RIME unit is deemed as “mission critical” since its purpose is to map underneath the icy crusts of Jupiter’s three icy worlds: Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.

“It’s been an exhausting but very exciting six weeks,” said Angela Dietz, who is the deputy spacecraft operations manager for the Juice mission. “We have faced and overcome various challenges to get Juice into the right shape for getting the best science out of its trip to Jupiter.”

The unfurling of the booms and antennae are crucial as they house either some or all of Juice’s 10 instruments, which comprise various scientific packages: the remote sensing package, the in situ package, and the geophysical package. Along with these incredible instruments, Juice will also be conducting an experiment known as the Planetary Radio Interferometer & Doppler Experiment (PRIDE), whose goal will be to use very-long baseline and ground-based interferometry to accurately measure Juice’s velocity and location in space.

This incredible cache of instruments will be responsible for exploring Jupiter while conducting 35 flybys of Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto, which are each hypothesized to contain bodies of liquid water beneath their icy crusts. Aside from the moons, Juice will also conduct further examinations of the entire Jupiter system, as scientists hypothesize this could help paint a clearer picture of gas giant exoplanets—and possible exomoons that have yet to be detected—that continue to be discovered throughout the galaxy.

Of the 10 Juice instruments, three stand out as some of the most important to the mission. These include the previously discussed RIME antenna, which will be responsible for mapping the interior environments of these icy worlds; the JANUS optical camera instrument, which will be able to capture images in 13 different colors, ranging from violet light to near infrared, and will be imaging Jupiter’s innermost Galilean moon, Io, as well; and the Radio & Plasma Wave Investigation (RPWI) instrument, which will be responsible for producing the first-ever 3D map of Jupiter’s electric fields and the interactions between Jupiter’s massive magnetosphere and the icy worlds of Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.

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Cutaway illustration depicting the interior of Europa. Mapping this interior will be one of the goals of the Juice mission using its RIME antenna. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Michael Carroll)
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Artist rendition of Jupiter’s enormous magnetic field. Producing the first-ever 3D map of Jupiter’s electric fields and the interactions between Jupiter’s massive magnetosphere and its icy worlds will be one of the goals of the Juice mission using its RPWI instrument. (Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

“Our 3D design strategy makes it possible to measure true physical observables, such as energy and momentum, without resorting to theories or simulations to interpret the data,” said Jan Bergman, who is a Senior Scientists at the Swedish Institute
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15 Great Backpacking Trips You Can Still Take in 2023



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By Michael Lanza

So you didn’t plan months in advance to reserve a permit for backpacking this summer in Glacier, Yosemite, on the Teton Crest Trail, Wonderland Trail, or John Muir Trail or in another popular national park? Or you applied for a permit but got rejected? Now what? Where can you still go this year?

You’re in luck. This story describes 15 backpacking trips you can still plan and take this year—either because they don’t require a permit reservation or, in the case of Yosemite, North Cascades, and Olympic national parks, you can still obtain a backcountry permit reservation for many summer dates and trails, where one is required.

Six of them are in top-tier national parks, and the others are all multi-day wilderness hikes with national park-caliber scenery. They all possess qualities that make them stand out in personal memory among the countless adventures I’ve enjoyed over the past three-plus decades, including the 10 years I spent as Northwest Editor of Backpacker magazine and even longer running this blog.

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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.

A backpacker hiking the Shannon Pass Trail, Wind River Range, WY.
” data-image-caption=”My wife, Penny, backpacking the Shannon Pass Trail in Wyoming’s Wind River Range.
” data-medium-file=”″ data-large-file=”″ decoding=”async” width=”900″ height=”600″ src=”″ alt=”A backpacker hiking the Shannon Pass Trail, Wind River Range, WY.” class=”wp-image-58505″ srcset=” 1024w, 300w, 768w, 150w, 1200w” sizes=”(max-width: 900px) 100vw, 900px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />My wife, Penny, backpacking the Shannon Pass Trail in Wyoming’s Wind River Range.

If you don’t want to miss your opportunity to get into the wilderness this year, scroll through this list and start the gears turning to make one of these trips happen. You know that you’ll be glad you did.

Each trip described below includes a link to my full story about it, which
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Starship | First Integrated Flight Test | Recap



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Starship gave us quite a show during the first flight test of a fully integrated Starship (S24) and Super Heavy rocket (B7) from Starbase in Texas.

On April 20, 2023 at 8:33 a.m. CT, Starship successfully lifted off from the orbital launch pad for the first time. The vehicle cleared the pad and beach as Starship climbed to an apogee of ~39 km over the Gulf of Mexico – the highest of any Starship to-date.

With a test like this, success comes from what we learn, and we learned a tremendous amount about the vehicle and ground systems today that will help us improve on future flights of Starship.

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