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Most of the comets we see in the sky were born in our solar system. They may have formed deep within the Oort cloud, and for some, it is their first visit to the inner solar system, but they are distinctly children of the Sun. We know of only two objects that came from beyond our solar system, Omuamua and Borisov. There are likely other interstellar objects visiting our solar system, we just haven’t found them. But that’s likely to change when Rubin Observatory comes online.

One of the things we know about stellar systems is that they can toss debris into interstellar space. Planetary orbits can shift dramatically during the early period of a system, and near misses between asteroids and even planets can give them enough kinetic energy to escape their star’s gravitational pull. We have discovered several rogue planets, and smaller bodies such as asteroids and comets can escape more easily. So there are plenty of interstellar bodies drifting through the galaxy.

But how many of these interstellar bodies visit our solar system? Oumuamua and Borisov were only discovered by chance because they passed within the inner solar system. Oumuamua had a maximum magnitude of 19, while Borisov was even brighter with a magnitude of 15. And it was only through a series of observations that we could determine their interstellar trajectories. Given random statistics, interstellar bodies are more likely to be found in the outer region of our solar system. That means they would be much dimmer and harder to find.

One of the projects for Rubin Observatory is the Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST), which will catalog objects in our solar system. It’s expected to gather data on more than 5 million asteroid belt objects, 300,000 Jupiter Trojans, 100,000 near-Earth objects, and more than 40,000 Kuiper belt objects. Since Rubin will be able to map the visible night sky every few days, many of these objects will be observed hundreds of times. We will have plenty of data to calculate their positions and orbits. Even in the outer regions of our solar system, interstellar objects will stand out.

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Artist’s impression of Oumuamua leaving the Solar System. Credit: NASA

The Rubin Observatory team estimates that within the first year of operation they will discover dozens of interstellar visitors. From their motion and spectra, we will be able to study the origins of these bodies, as well as their chemical compositions. It will give us a deeper understanding of how planetary systems form, including our own.

Years ago the first projects to search for exoplanets transformed our understanding of planetary systems. We’ve gone from knowing only a handful of planets to thousands. Rubin’s LSST project will transform our understanding of our solar system in a similar way. It will create the most detailed database of the Sun’s family, as well as the occasional visitors from beyond.

Reference: NOIRLab. “Visitors from Distant Stars: Rubin Observatory Will Detect an Abundance of Interstellar Objects Careening Through Our Solar System.” (2023).

The post Vera Rubin Will Find Many More Interstellar Objects 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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