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What’s true for optical astronomy is also true for gravitational wave astronomy: the more observatories you have, the better your view of the sky. This is why the list of active gravitational wave observatories is growing. But so far they are all in the Northern Hemisphere. As a recent article on the arXiv points out, that means we are missing out on a good number of gravitational events.

To its credit, gravitational wave astronomy is still in its youth. In the early days of large optical telescopes, there was also a northern bias to their locations. Part of this was based on the technical challenges of constructing telescopes in the global south, but there was also a cultural bias that is still with us today. We would do well to be mindful of this bias and try to correct it.

But this latest work shows that building a gravitational wave observatory in the southern hemisphere wouldn’t simply be an act of broadening global participation, it would gain us significantly more observational data. This is particularly true given that the dense central region of our galaxy is in the Southern sky.

As a basic case, the authors consider adding a LIGO-like observatory in Australia. Currently, there are two LIGO detectors in the United States and the Virgo detector in Italy. Together they detect around 3 events a year, though that number is rising as techniques improve. The addition of an Australian detector would double that count to more than 6 events. With three source detections, we could triangulate the event in the sky, allowing optical telescopes to gather data for multi-messenger astronomy.

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Sensitivity of Cosmic Explorer and current observatories. Credit: Evan D. Hall

Of course, by the time an observatory can be constructed in the global south, gravitational wave detectors will be significantly improved. So the authors look at a more realistic case of building a third-generation advanced detector in Australia. This could operate in tandem with an American-based Cosmic Explorer and a European-based Einstein Telescope. Where LIGO uses detector arms 4 kilometers long, these new detectors would use 20-kilometer arms or even 40-kilometer arms. They will be able to detect gravitational sources we can currently only dream of seeing.

In this case, adding an Australian detector would not significantly increase the number of observed events, raising the number from an estimated 40 a year to 44 a year. But as you can imagine, these new observatories will be so cutting edge that downtimes will be inevitable. In this case, an Australian observatory would give us a significant edge. With only Einstein and Cosmic Explorer, if one goes down for maintenance, the detection rate drops to a few a year. But with two observatories still active, the rate stays around 40 a year.

As we get better at gravitational wave astronomy, there will eventually be detectors all over the world, and even in space. Gravitational wave astronomy will come to the global south. But as this study shows, the time for that is sooner, not later.

Reference: Gardner, James W., et al. “Multi-messenger astronomy with a Southern-Hemisphere gravitational-wave observatory.” arXiv preprint arXiv:2308.13103 (2023).

The post It’s Time for a Gravitational Wave Observatory in the Southern Hemisphere appeared first on Universe Today.

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Can We Survive in Space? It Might Depend on How Our Gut Microbiome Adapts

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For over a century, people have dreamed of the day when humanity (as a species) would venture into space. In recent decades, that dream has moved much closer to realization, thanks to the rise of the commercial space industry (NewSpace), renewed interest in space exploration, and long-term plans to establish habitats in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), on the lunar surface, and Mars. Based on the progression, it is clear that going to space exploration will not be reserved for astronauts and government space agencies for much longer.

But before the “Great Migration” can begin, there are a lot of questions that need to be addressed. Namely, how will prolonged exposure to microgravity and space radiation affect human health? These include the well-studied aspects of muscle and bone density loss and how time in space can impact our organ function and cardiovascular and psychological health. In a recent study, an international team of scientists considered an often-overlooked aspect of human health: our microbiome. In short, how will time in space affect our gut bacteria, which is crucial to our well-being?

The team consisted of biomedical researchers from the Ionizing and Non-ionizing Radiation Protection Research Center (INIRPRC) at the Shiraz University of Medical Sciences (SUMS), the Lebanese International University, the International University of Beirut, the MVLS College at The University of Glasgow, the Center for Applied Mathematics and Bioinformatics (CAMB) at Gulf University in Kuwait, the Nuclear Physics Institute (NPI) of the Czech Academy of Sciences (CAS), and the Technische Universität Wien Atominstitut in Vienna. The paper that describes their findings recently appeared in Frontiers of Microbiology.

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Artist’s impression of the Space Launch System (SLS) taking off. Credit: NASA

A microbiome is the collection of all microbes that live on and within our bodies, including bacteria, fungi, viruses, and their respective genes. These microbes are key to how our body interacts with the surrounding environment since they can affect how we respond to the presence of foreign bodies and substances. In particular, some microbes alter foreign bodies in ways that make them more harmful, while others act as a buffer that mitigates the effects of toxins. As they note in their study, the microbiota of astronauts will encounter elevated stress from microgravity and space radiation, including Galactic Cosmic Rays (GCR).

Cosmic rays are a high-energy form of radiation that consists primarily of protons and atomic nuclei stripped of their electrons that have been accelerated to close to the speed of light. When these rays are generated from elements heavier than hydrogen or helium, their high-energy nuclei components are known as HZE ions, which are particularly hazardous. When these impact our atmosphere or protective shielding aboard spacecraft or the International Space Station (ISS), they result in showers of secondary particles.

While Earth’s protective magnetosphere and atmosphere prevent most of these particles from reaching the surface, astronauts in space are exposed to them regularly. As the authors noted, previous research has shown how this exposure could potentially enhance astronaut resilience to radiation, a process known as radio-adaptation. However, they also noted that the extent to which astronauts adapted varied from one astronaut to the next, with some experiencing adverse biological effects before embarking on a deep space mission.

For this reason, they recommend conducting further research to determine the risks associated with the space environment, as it mostly consists of protons, which astronauts will be exposed to before encountering HZE particles. Third, NASA’s Multi-Mission Model suggests that an astronaut’s first mission can be an adapting dose. However, the team notes that current research suggests that a second spaceflight does not necessarily increase the chances of genetic abnormalities as much as expected. This could mean that the
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The Best Ultralight Hiking and Running Jackets of 2024

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By Michael Lanza

You’re out on an all-day hike or a long climb or trail run or ride in the mountains. The weather forecast looked pretty good before you set out—but no one shared that memo with the wind that just started hammering your summit ridge, or the spitting rain and hail now pelting you as you contemplate the sudden drop in temperature and the miles between you and shelter. The question now is: What’s in your pack?

If you’re smart, it’s an ultralight jacket that takes up little space, but is about to gift you with just the right amount of weather protection when you need it.

This article offers my expert tips on how to choose the best ultralight shell for your needs, followed by my freshly updated picks for the best models on the market today, based on real-world, backcountry field testing and more than 25 years of experience reviewing outdoor gear and apparel, including more than 10 years running this blog and previously the lead gear reviewer for Backpacker magazine for 10 years.

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The Outdoor Research Helium Wind Hoodie.
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” data-medium-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Outdoor-Research-Helium-Wind-Hoodie-vert.jpg?fit=221%2C300&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Outdoor-Research-Helium-Wind-Hoodie-vert.jpg?fit=753%2C1024&ssl=1″ src=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Outdoor-Research-Helium-Wind-Hoodie-vert.jpg?resize=753%2C1024&ssl=1″ alt=”The Outdoor Research Helium Wind Hoodie.” class=”wp-image-52060″ style=”width:471px;height:641px” srcset=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Outdoor-Research-Helium-Wind-Hoodie-vert.jpg?resize=753%2C1024&ssl=1 753w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Outdoor-Research-Helium-Wind-Hoodie-vert.jpg?resize=221%2C300&ssl=1 221w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Outdoor-Research-Helium-Wind-Hoodie-vert.jpg?resize=768%2C1045&ssl=1 768w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Outdoor-Research-Helium-Wind-Hoodie-vert.jpg?resize=150%2C204&ssl=1 150w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Outdoor-Research-Helium-Wind-Hoodie-vert.jpg?w=882&ssl=1 882w” sizes=”(max-width: 753px) 100vw, 753px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />The Outdoor Research Helium Wind Hoodie.

Ultralight Jackets Explained

What is an ultralight shell jacket? There’s no consensus definition, and considerable variation among today’s models. But basically, the term “ultralight jacket” explains their primary advantage: They weigh under about 10 ounces—and some a fraction of that—and are very packable, often stuffing down to the size of a fist. In other words, they are usually less than half the weight and bulk of a standard waterproof-breathable jacket. While a few may be partly or even fully waterproof, many are water-resistant and windproof, providing a minimum level of protection from the elements.

While these jackets, also known as ultralight wind shells, are marketed primarily to trail runners, they are often a better choice than a heavier, bulkier rain jacket for dayhikers, climbers, and lightweight/ultralight backpackers who don’t expect to encounter heavy rain. I’ve used many of the models reviewed here for lightweight dayhikes and some of the more durable models for backpacking and climbing when the forecast threatened no more than passing showers or thunderstorms.

Although they certainly look very minimalist, they deliver all the
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Review: Rocky Talkie Mountain Radio

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Two-Way Radio
Rocky Talkie Mountain Radio

$110 each/$220 per pair

6.1 oz./172.9g (one radio only), 7.9 oz./224g (including carabiners and leash)

rockytalkie.com

Over more than 30 years of climbing and skiing in the backcountry, I’ve had a few close calls, some directly due to the inability of my partner and I to hear or see one another. One of my most trusted partners—a longtime friend who once saved me from a potentially long lead-climbing fall by leaping down a steep hill at the route’s base to reel in many feet of rope—also once took me off belay before I reached the top of a pitch and anchored myself; fortunately, I didn’t fall. After relying on the sketchy low tech of shouting and rope signals for much too long, I’ve found a vastly more reliable, light, and inexpensive solution: the Rocky Talkie Mountain Radio.

On days of ski touring in the backcountry—where you need to know the location of your partners after skiing separately down runs and confirm that all are safe, and you can often be too far apart to hear or see one another and wind can drown out or distort shouts—I’ve found the Rocky Talkie Mountain Radio reliably provides clear communication, eliminating the need for often fruitless and frustrating shouts to one another.

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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.

The Rocky Talkie Mountain Radio.
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” data-medium-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/Rocky-Talkie-Mountain-Radio-closeup-2.jpg?fit=300%2C225&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/Rocky-Talkie-Mountain-Radio-closeup-2.jpg?fit=900%2C675&ssl=1″ src=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/Rocky-Talkie-Mountain-Radio-closeup-2.jpg?resize=900%2C675&ssl=1″ alt=”The Rocky Talkie Mountain Radio.” class=”wp-image-62090″ srcset=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/Rocky-Talkie-Mountain-Radio-closeup-2.jpg?resize=1024%2C768&ssl=1 1024w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/Rocky-Talkie-Mountain-Radio-closeup-2.jpg?resize=300%2C225&ssl=1 300w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/Rocky-Talkie-Mountain-Radio-closeup-2.jpg?resize=768%2C576&ssl=1 768w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/Rocky-Talkie-Mountain-Radio-closeup-2.jpg?resize=150%2C113&ssl=1 150w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/Rocky-Talkie-Mountain-Radio-closeup-2.jpg?w=1200&ssl=1 1200w” sizes=”(max-width: 900px) 100vw, 900px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />The Rocky Talkie Mountain Radio.

I’ve also used the Mountain Radio resort skiing at Northern California’s Palisades-Tahoe and Sugar Bowl resorts with my young-adult son, enabling us to discuss which runs to ski whenever we were too far apart to hear one another, or to locate one another when we took different runs. That’s particularly helpful when skiing unfamiliar resorts. (Radios are less necessary with a group who are all familiar with the resort and can plan where to rendezvous after a run and a phone call can usually clear up any miscommunication.)

The Rocky Talkie Mountain Radio is simple enough for a young child to master—and skiing parents know how easily one can lose a fast, young kid on the slopes. Yes, many resorts have cell service. But a cell phone is usually buried in a pocket where its sound is muffled and you have to remove a glove or mitten to operate it, whereas you can clip a two-way radio to a shoulder strap of a small pack—near your ear—where you need only to reach over and press the talk button to speak to a partner and will
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