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Two spacecraft made historic flybys of Venus last week, and both sent back sci-fi-type views of the mysterious, cloud-shrouded planet.

The Solar Orbiter and BepiColombo spacecraft both used Venus for gravity assists within 33 hours of each other, capturing unique imagery and data during their encounters.

Solar Orbiter, a joint mission between ESA and NASA to study the Sun, sailed past Venus on August 9 at a distance of 7995 km (4967 miles). Then BepiColombo, a collaborative venture between ESA and JAXA to Mercury, skimmed past at just 552 km (343 miles) from the planet’s surface on August 10.

The image above was taken when BepiColumbo was 1,573 km from Venus.

Here’s a video of Solar Orbiter’s view, from the SoloHI imager:

The camera observed the nightside of Venus in the days before closest approach. SoloHI will be used to take images of the solar wind – the stream of charged particles constantly released from the Sun – by capturing the light scattered by electrons in the wind. In the days leading up to the Venus flyby, the telescope caught views of the bright glare of the planet’s dayside. The footage shows Venus moving across the field of view from the left, while the Sun is off camera to the upper right. The planet’s nightside, the part hidden from the Sun, appears as a dark semicircle surrounded by a bright crescent of light, ESA scientists explained.

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Animated gif of BepiColombo’s flyby, with a sequence of 89 images taken by the monitoring cameras . Credit: ESA

Both flybys helped the two spacecraft reach their next destinations. BepiColombo is scheduled to reach the innermost planet of the Solar System in October 2025. The spacecraft needs flybys of Earth, Venus and then several flybys of Mercury itself, together with the spacecraft’s solar electric propulsion system, to help steer into Mercury orbit against the immense gravitational pull of the Sun.

BepiColombo is actually made of two attached orbiters: the Mercury Planetary Orbiter and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter. The Planetary Orbiter will map the planet in great detail, and the Magnetospheric Orbiter will study, obviously, its magnetosphere.

This video of BepiColombo’s Venus flyby includes sonification of data recorded by the Italian Spring Accelerometer (ISA) aboard the Mercury Planetary Orbiter spacecraft. The accelerometer data was converted to frequency to be made audible to the human ear. The resulting sound is quite interesting, with the sound reflecting variations in spacecraft accelerations due to the planet’s gravity acting on the spacecraft structure, as well as effects due to rapid temperature changes, and the change in reaction wheel velocity as they work hard to compensate for these effects. The audio has been matched to the timing that the images seen in this movie were captured, in the moments after closest approach.

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A screenshot of the Solar Orbiter flyby video. Credit: ESA.

Solar Orbiter will make a final close Earth flyby on November 27 of this year, coming within 460 km (285 miles) before further Venus slingshots will tilt its inclination, helping the spacecraft get in the right position to get the first-ever views of the Sun’s poles, a crucial part of the mission to help us understand the Sun’s 11 year activity cycle. The beginning of the primary mission also begins in November. It will take the closest ever images of the Sun as it comes within 42 million km, and measure the composition of the solar wind.

You can read more details on the two flybys at the ESA website.
BepiColombo’s mission website.
Solar Orbiter mission website.

The post The
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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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