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Hubble completes its latest tour of the outer solar system

The Hubble Space Telescope is a joint project between NASA and the ESA. Teams operating the telescope have announced that it completed its annual tour of the outer solar system. The outer solar system is the realm of massive planets much larger than Earth, including Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.

These planets are vastly more distant from the Sun than the Earth and are nothing like our planet. These distant planets are made up of extremely cold gaseous mixtures of hydrogen, helium, ammonia, methane, and other trace gases. Those frigid gases surround very hot and compact cores.

Hubble teams note that each time the space telescope turns its sharp eyes to those worlds, they discover new surprises and insights into the weather and other conditions on the planets. Hubble observations of Jupiter allow researchers to track any change in the turbulent atmosphere of the planet. In this year’s observations, new storms are noted around the planet’s equator, which has changed color. In the image here, taken on September 4, the equatorial zone is a deep orange color that is unusual, according to researchers.

Typically the equator has been white or beige over the last few years. Astronomers also noted several new storms, which are called barges. They are defined as cyclonic vortices and vary in appearance, with some of the storms being sharp and well defined while others are hazy and fuzzy. The differences in appearance are the result of physical properties within the vortices.

Hubble also took a gander at Saturn, the massive ringed world. The photograph here of Saturn was taken on September 12 and illustrated some of the color changes in the bands within the planet’s northern hemisphere. In that northern hemisphere, it’s currently autumn. Those bands changed colors since Hubble observations in 2023 and 2023. The image shows the southern hemisphere of Saturn as well, which is in winter and has a bluish tint.

The image of Uranus was taken on October 25 and highlighted the northern polar region of the planet. It was springtime in the northern hemisphere when the photograph was taken, causing the area to be brighter than usual, possibly due to an increase in ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Interestingly, researchers aren’t sure why the hemisphere seems brighter.

Speculation suggests the change in brightness has to do with the opacity of atmospheric methane or variation in other aerosol particles in the atmosphere. The image also shows the sharp southern boundary remains, which is a feature that has been consistent over the last several years of observations. Speculation suggests jetstream might exist that creates a barrier at a latitude of 43 degrees on the planet.

The image of Neptune was taken on September 7, 2023. With that image, researchers determined that the dark spot on the planet is still visible. That dark spot was recently discovered to have reversed its course after traveling towards the equator in the past. In addition, the northern hemisphere of Neptune has darkened in the photo. The reason that Neptune appears blue is because the methane-rich atmosphere absorbs red light.

All of these images were taken as part of Hubble’s yearly mapping as part of the Outer Planets Atmospheres Legacy program. The program captures global views of outer planets each year to record changes in planetary features such as storms, wind, and clouds.

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The Most Incredible Pictures Of Every Planet In Our Solar System

Mercury, as seen by MESSENGER. NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

Captured with NASA’s Messenger spacecraft in 2011, this image of Mercury shows the tiny, hot planet’s many craters, named after writers, artists and musicians.

Venus NASA/JPL

This one’s a little bit more dated, dating from 1996 during the Magellan mission, also known as the Venus Radar Mapper. It’s been in orbit since 1989, but this shot is one of our favorites of its long trip out to the second planet. The dark spots all over the planet are meteorite impacts, and that big light section right in the center is Ovda Regio, a massive mountain range.

EPIC Earth

Earth as seen from DSCOVR on July 16, 2024.

Over 40 years after the famous “Blue Marble” picture showed the world what our planet looks like from afar in gorgeous detail, NASA’s DSCOVR satellite began taking regular portraits of Earth from its stable position a million miles away.

Mars NASA / USGS

For Mars, we’re going to reach all the way back to 1980. Recent efforts on Mars have resulted in some of the highest-quality shots ever taken of the Red Planet, but they’re mostly from close by or, lately, on the surface. Those are incredible, but we were really looking for a “marble” style picture, and this is one of the most gorgeous we’ve ever seen. It’s a mosaic of images taken by the Viking 1 orbiter. That gash in the middle is Valles Marineris, a massive canyon along the planet’s equator that’s among the largest in our solar system.

Jupiter NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Jupiter’s prettiest shot came from, believe it or not, a flyby–this beautiful image was taken in November of 2003 with the somewhat narrow camera on NASA’s Cassini spacecraft while Cassini was on its way to Saturn. Interestingly, everything you see in this image is actually a cloud, not the surface of the planet itself–the white and tan rings are all different types of cloud cover. This image is notable because these colors are very close to what the human eye would see.

This backlit view from Cassini shows Saturn’s rings in glorious detail. Look carefully. The speck to the left? That’s Earth. NASA / JPL / Space Science Institute

And when the Cassini probe finally made it past Jupiter and out to Saturn, it was all worth it, because the photos of Saturn and its moons are extraordinary. This shot was compiled from a 9-hour-long photo session that let scientists capture this gorgeous backlit view.

Uranus NASA/JPL

Poor Uranus. In 1986, when Voyager 2 passed by the first “ice giant” on its way out to the unknown, it looked like nothing more than a featureless blue-green sphere. That’s due to a haze of methane clouds, which are the final layer of frozen gases in this little-known planet. It’s believed that there are clouds of water somewhere underneath, but, well, we’re not really sure.

Neptune NASA/JPL

The final planet that is technically a planet according to scientists (but not our hearts), Neptune was only discovered in 1846 and even then it was discovered due to mathematical calculation, not due to observation–changes in the orbit of Uranus led astronomer Alexis Brouvard to the discovery that another planet was out there. And this image is not very good because Neptune has been visited only once, by the Voyager 2, in 1989. It’s hard to get a sense of what’s going on out on Neptune–temperatures are barely above absolute zero, it’s buffeted by the strongest winds in the solar system (up to 1,300mph), and in fact we have very little idea how the planet was formed or operates.

This is our best image of Pluto yet

A global mosaic of Pluto captured by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft and released on July 24, 2024 reveals Pluto and its distinctive heart-shaped feature in more eye-popping detail than ever captured. The image was created by combining four separate captures from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) with color data from the Ralph Instrument on New Horizons.

So, yes, Pluto is a “dwarf planet” rather than a regular planet. But we couldn’t leave it out, especially with all the amazing images sent back from New Horizons flyby in 2024. What was once just a blurry circle is now a high-definition wonder with features that will keep planetary scientists busy for years to come.

The Invention Of The Solar Cell

The great Scottish scientist James Clerk Maxwell wrote in 1874 to a colleague: “I saw conductivity of Selenium as affected by light. It is most sudden. Effect of a copper heater insensible. That of the sun great.”

Maxwell was among many European scientists intrigued by a behavior of selenium that had first been brought to the attention of the scientific community in an article by Willoughby Smith, published in the 1873 Journal of the Society of Telegraph Engineers. Smith, the chief electrician (electrical engineer) of the Gutta Percha Company, used selenium bars during the late 1860s in a device for detecting flaws in the transatlantic cable before submersion. Though the selenium bars worked well at night, they performed dismally when the sun came out. Suspecting that selenium’s peculiar performance had something to do with the amount of light falling on it, Smith placed the bars in a box with a sliding cover. When the box was closed and light excluded, the bars’ resistance — the degree to which they hindered the electrical flow through them — was at its highest and remained constant. But when the cover of the box was removed, their conductivity — the enhancement of electrical flow — immediately “increased according to the intensity of light.”

Discovering the Photovoltaic Effect in a Solid Material

Let It Shine

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To determine whether it was the sun’s heat or its light that affected the selenium, Smith conducted a series of experiments. In one, he placed a bar in a shallow trough of water. The water blocked the sun’s heat, but not its light, from reaching the selenium. When he covered and uncovered the trough, the results obtained were similar to those previously observed, leading him to conclude that “the resistance [of the selenium bars] was altered…according to the intensity of light.”

Among the researchers examining the effect of light on selenium following Smith’s report were two British scientists, Professor William Grylls Adams and his student Richard Evans Day. During the late 1870s they subjected selenium to many experiments, and in one of these trials they lit a candle an inch away from the same bars of selenium Smith had used. The needle on their measuring device reacted immediately. Screening the selenium from light caused the needle to drop to zero instantaneously. These rapid responses ruled out the possibility that the heat of the candle flame had produced the current (a phenomenon known as thermal electricity), because when heat is applied or withdrawn in thermoelectric experiments, the needle always rises or falls slowly. “Hence,” the investigators concluded, “it was clear that a current could be started in the selenium by the action of the light alone.”5 They felt confident that they had discovered something completely new: that light caused “a flow of electricity” through a solid material. Adams and Day called current produced by light “photoelectric.”

The First Module

A few years later, Charles Fritts of New York moved the technology forward by constructing the world’s first photoelectric module. He spread a wide, thin layer of selenium onto a metal plate and covered it with a thin, semitransparent gold-leaf film. This selenium module, Fritts reported, produced a current “that is continuous, constant, and of considerable force[,]…not only by exposure to sunlight, but also to dim diffused daylight, and even to lamplight.” As to the usefulness of his invention, Fritts optimistically predicted that “we may ere long see the photoelectric plate competing with [coal-fired electrical-generating plants],” the first fossil-fueled power plants, which had been built by Thomas Edison only three years before Fritts announced his intentions.

Fritts sent one of his solar panels to Werner von Siemens, whose reputation ranked on a par with Edison’s. The panels’ output of electricity when placed under light so impressed Siemens that the renowned German scientist presented Fritts’s panel to the Royal Academy of Prussia. Siemens declared to the scientific world that the American’s modules “presented to us, for the first time, the direct conversion of the energy of light into electrical energy.”

The blessed vision of the Sun, no longer pouring unrequited into space.

Siemens judged photoelectricity to be “scientifically of the most far-reaching importance.” James Clerk Maxwell agreed. He praised the study of photoelectricity as “a very valuable contribution to science.” But neither Maxwell nor Siemens had a clue as to how the phenomenon worked. Maxwell wondered, “Is the radiation the immediate cause or does it act by producing some change in the chemical state?” Siemens did not even venture an explanation but urged a “thorough investigation to determine upon what the electromotive light-action of [the] selenium depends.”

Few scientists heeded Siemens’s call. The discovery seemed to counter all of what science believed at that time. The selenium bars used by Adams and Day, and Fritts’s “magic” plate, did not rely on heat to generate energy as did all other known power devices, including solar motors. So most dismissed them from the realm of further scientific inquiry.

One brave scientist, however, George M. Minchin, a professor of applied mathematics at the Royal Indian Engineering College, complained that rejecting photoelectricity as scientifically unsound — an action that originated in the “very limited experience” of contemporary science and in “a ‘so far as we know’ [perspective —] is nothing short of madness.” In fact, Minchin came closest among the handful of nineteenth-century experimentalists to explaining what happens when light strikes a selenium solar cell. Perhaps, Minchin wrote, it “simply act[s] as a transformer of the energy it receives from the sun, while its own materials, being the implements used in the process, may be almost wholly unmodified.”

The scientific community during Minchin’s time also dismissed photoelectricity’s potential as a power source after looking at the results obtained when measuring the sun’s thermal energy in a glass-covered, black-surfaced device, the ideal absorber of solar heat. “But clearly the assumption that all forms of energy of the solar beam are caught up by a blackened surface and transformed into heat is one which may possibly be incorrect,” Minchin argued. In fact, he believed that “there may be some forms of [solar] energy which take no notice of blackened surfaces[, and] perhaps the proper receptive surfaces” to measure them “remain to be discovered.” Minchin intuited that only when science had the ability to quantify “the intensities of light as regards each of [its] individual colours [that is, the different wavelengths] could scientists judge the potential of photoelectricity.”

Einstein’s Great Discovery

Albert Einstein shared Minchin’s suspicions that the science of the age failed to account for all the energy streaming from the sun. In a daring paper published in 1905, Einstein showed that light possesses an attribute that earlier scientists had not recognized. Light, he discovered, contains packets of energy, which he called light quanta (now called photons). He argued that the amount of power that light quanta carry varies, as Minchin suspected, according to the wavelength of light — the shorter the wavelength, the more power. The shortest wavelength, for example, contains photons that are about four times as powerful as those of the longest.

Einstein’s bold and novel description of light, combined with the discovery of the electron and the ensuing rash of research into its behavior — all happening at the turn of the nineteenth century — provided photoelectricity with a scientific framework it had previously lacked and that could now explain the phenomenon in terms understandable to science. In materials like selenium, the more powerful photons carry enough energy to knock poorly linked electrons from their atomic orbits. When wires are attached to the selenium bars, the liberated electrons flow through them in the form of electricity. Nineteenth-century experimenters called the process photoelectric, but by the 1920s scientists referred to the phenomenon as the photovoltaic effect.

This new legitimacy stimulated further research into photovoltaics and re-vived the dream that the world’s industries could hum along fuel- and pollution-free, powered by the inexhaustible rays of the sun. Dr. Bruno Lange, a German scientist whose 1931 solar panel resembled Fritts’s design, predicted that, “in the not distant future, huge plants will employ thousands of these plates to transform sunlight into electric power…that can compete with hydroelectric and steam-driven generators in running factories and lighting homes.” But Lange’s solar battery worked no better than Fritts’s, converting far less than 1 percent of all incoming sunlight into electricity — hardly enough to justify its use as a power source.

The pioneers in photoelectricity failed to attain the goals they had hoped to reach, but their efforts were not in vain. One contemporary of Minchin’s credited them for their “telescopic imagination [that] beheld the blessed vision of the Sun, no longer pouring unrequited into space, but by means of photo-electric cells…[its] powers gathered into electric storehouses to the total extinction of steam engines and the utter repression of smoke.” In his 1919 book on solar cells, Thomas Benson complimented these pioneers’ work with selenium as the forerunner of “the inevitable Solar Generator.” Maria Telkes, too, felt encouraged by the selenium legacy, writing, “Personally, I believe that photovoltaic cells will be the most efficient converters of solar energy, if a great deal of further research and development work succeeds in improving their characteristics.”

With no breakthroughs on the horizon, though, the head of Westinghouse’s photoelectricity division could only conclude, “The photovoltaic cells will not prove interesting to the practical engineer until the efficiency has increased at least fifty times.” The authors of Photoelectricity and Its Applications agreed with the pessimistic prognosis, writing in 1949, “It must be left to the future whether the discovery of materially more efficient cells will reopen the possibility of harnessing solar energy for useful purposes.”

The First Practical Solar Cell Bell executives presented the Bell Solar Battery to the press on April 25, 1954.

Just five years later the beginning of the silicon revolution spawned the world’s first practical solar cell and its promise for an enduring solar age. Its birth accidentally occurred along with that of the silicon transistor, the principal component of every electronic device in use today. Two scientists, Calvin Fuller and Gerald Pearson of the famous Bell Laboratories, led the pioneering effort that took the silicon transistor from theory to working device. Pearson was described by an admiring colleague as the “experimentalist’s experimentalist.” Fuller, a chemist, learned how to control the introduction of the impurities necessary to transform silicon from a poor to the preeminent conductor of electricity. As part of the research program, Fuller gave Pearson a piece of silicon containing a small concentration of gallium. The introduction of gallium had made the silicon positively charged. When Pearson dipped the rod into a hot lithium bath, according to Fuller’s formula, the portion of the silicon immersed in the lithium became negatively charged. Where the positive and negative silicon met, a permanent electrical field developed. This is the p-n junction, the heart of the transistor and solar cell, where all electronic activity occurs. Silicon prepared this way needs but a certain amount of outside energy for activation, which lamplight provided in one of Pearson’s experiments. The scientist had the specially prepared silicon connected by wires to an ammeter, which, to Pearson’s surprise, recorded a significant electrical current.

While Fuller and Pearson worked on improving transistors, another Bell scientist, Daryl Chapin, had begun work on the problem of providing small amounts of intermittent power in remote humid locations. In any other climate, the traditional dry-cell battery would do, but “in the tropics [it] may have too short a life” due to humidity-induced degradation, Chapin explained, “and be gone when fully needed.” Bell Laboratories had Chapin investigate the feasibility of employing alternative sources of freestanding power, including wind machines, thermoelectric generators, and small steam engines. Chapin suggested that the investigation include solar cells, and his supervisors approved.

In late February 1953, Chapin commenced his photovoltaic research. Placing a commercial selenium cell in sunlight, he recorded that the cell produced 4.9 watts per square meter. Its efficiency, the percentage of sunlight it could convert into electricity, was a little less than 0.5 percent. Word of Chapin’s solar power studies and dismal results got back to Pearson. He told Chapin, “Don’t waste another moment on selenium,” and gave him the silicon solar cell that he had made. Chapin’s tests, conducted in strong sunlight, proved Pearson right. The silicon solar cell had an efficiency of 2.3 percent, about five times greater than the selenium cell’s. Chapin immediately dropped selenium research and dedicated his time to improving the silicon solar cell.

His theoretical calculations of its potential were encouraging. An ideal unit, Chapin figured, could use 23 percent of the incoming solar energy to produce electricity. However, he set a goal of obtaining an efficiency of nearly 6 percent, the threshold that engineers of the time felt it was necessary to reach if photovoltaic cells were to be seriously regarded as electrical power sources.

Chapin, doing most of the engineering, had to try new materials, test different configurations, and face times of despair when nothing seemed to work. At several junctures, seemingly insurmountable obstacles arose. One major breakthrough came directly from knowledge of Einstein’s light quanta (photon) work. “It appears necessary to make our p-n [junction] very next to the surface,” Chapin realized, so that the more powerful photons belonging to light of shorter wavelengths could effectively move electrons to where they could be harvested as electricity. To build such a cell required collaboration with Fuller. Chapin also observed that silicon’s shiny surface reflected a good deal of sunlight that could be absorbed and used, so he coated its surface with a dull transparent plastic. Adding boron to the top of the cell permitted better photon harvesting by allowing for good electrical contact on the silicon strips while keeping the p-n junction close to the surface. Chapin finally triumphed, reaching his 6 percent goal. He could now confidently call the cells he built “power photocells…intended to be primary power sources.” Assured of the cells’ reproducibility and sufficient efficiency, the trio built a number of arrays and demonstrated them at a press conference and the annual meeting of the National Academy of Sciences.

Proud Bell executives presented the Bell Solar Battery to the press on April 25, 1954, displaying a panel of cells that relied solely on light power to run a 21-inch Ferris wheel. The next day the Bell scientists ran a solar-powered radio transmitter, which broadcast voice and music to America’s top scientists gathered at a meeting in Washington, DC. The press took notice. U.S. News & World Report speculated excitedly in an article titled “Fuel Unlimited”: “The [silicon] strips may provide more power than all the world’s coal, oil and uranium….Engineers are dreaming of silicon-strip powerhouses.” The New York Times concurred, stating on page one that the work of Chapin, Fuller, and Pearson, which resulted in the first solar cell capable of generating useful amounts of power, “may mark the beginning of a new era, leading eventually to the realization of one of mankind’s most cherished dreams — the harnessing of the almost limitless energy of the sun for the uses of civilization.”

From the book Let It Shine. Copyright © 2013 by John Perlin. Reprinted with permission from New World Library.

Apple Delays Rollout Of Its Child Safety Features, Including The Csam Detection System

Back in August, with about as little fanfare as possible, Apple announced a trio of new features coming to iOS 15, iPadOS 15, macOS 12 Monterey, and watchOS 8. There are three in total, each of which fall under the company’s new, concerted efforts to help protect against child abuse and sexual exploitation. And while the features were seen as a positive move in general, when it came to the specifics of one of the new features, there was a lot of pushback. And apparently it worked.

Today, Apple has announced that it is delaying the rollout of its child safety features. That includes more information regarding child sexual exploitation, the ability to monitor when a young person sends or receives potentially explicit photos, and the child sexual abuse material (CSAM) detection tool — which scans the iCloud Photo Library of users to search for known hashes tied directly to CSAM. It’s this latter feature that has received the majority of the ire from outside resources and agencies. Some believe it’s a slippery slope, despite Apple’s best efforts to praise the new features, try to show how they can’t be abused by Apple or anyone else, and otherwise try to sell these new features as an overall good thing.

But, in an effort to appease those who have taken umbrage with the new feature(s), Apple has confirmed that it is delaying the rollout to “take additional time” to “make improvements. You can see Apple’s full statement on the delay below.

Apple’s statement:

As noted in the statement, the plan to look over these features and adjust as necessary will take some time, with Apple giving itself a few months at least to work things out. There’s no new timetable for a launch, of course, and it would stand to reason that Apple will probably be even more transparent about these features moving forward. But only time will tell on that front.

As a refresher, Apple says it designed its CSAM detection tool, which, again, scans an iCloud Photo Library for known hashes, with privacy for the end user in mind. Here’s how the company put it when it initially announced this particular element of the new child safety features:

Apple’s method of detecting known CSAM is designed with user privacy in mind. Instead of scanning images in the cloud, the system performs on-device matching using a database of known CSAM image hashes provided by NCMEC and other child safety organizations. Apple further transforms this database into an unreadable set of hashes that is securely stored on users’ devices.

Before an image is stored in iCloud Photos, an on-device matching process is performed for that image against the known CSAM hashes. This matching process is powered by a cryptographic technology called private set intersection, which determines if there is a match without revealing the result. The device creates a cryptographic safety voucher that encodes the match result along with additional encrypted data about the image. This voucher is uploaded to iCloud Photos along with the image.

So, what do you make of Apple’s decision? Think it’s the right move?

What Is The Latest Version Of Android?

The Android operating system is the most widespread mobile device operating system in the world. There’s always a new version of Android around the corner, so there’s a good chance you’re not running the latest version.

Do you have the latest version? We’ll show you how to check what version of Android you have, what the latest version offers, how to update, and what’s next for Android.

Table of Contents

The Latest Android Version is Android 12

At the time of writing, the latest version of the Android OS is 12, released on October 4, 2023.

Of course, unless you’re running a “stock” Android device, you may not have access to Android 12 for quite some time. This is because each device manufacturer tends to develop and put their own custom “skin” on top of Android. For example, Samsung Galaxy phones have One UI, Xiaomi has MIUI, OnePlus has OxygenOS, and so on, which causes the delay.

Key Features of Android 12

Like all major versions of Android, Android 12 comes with several key features that will either convince you to update or stick with the Android version that you know and love.

Android 12 is a major refinement of the operating system. The graphical interface has received a major facelift. System colors can automatically adjust based on your wallpaper. Widgets have a new look, animations and motions have been modernized. Everything on the home screen feels more polished and premium.

Another notable set of features in Android 12 relates to accessibility. There’s a new window magnifier, an extra dim mode for those with light sensitivity or who want to browse in the dark.

Depending on your vision needs, you can also bold text across the entire phone and do system-wide color tweaking, including switching the phone to grayscale.

Privacy features bring Android 12 more in line with the latest version of Apple’s iOS. There are new clear indicators when your mic or camera is recording, and you can permanently disable your camera and mic if you don’t want any apps to access them.

What Happened to the Dessert Names?

Although the first Android versions didn’t have code names, you may remember that for a long time, each Android version was known by dessert names:

Cupcake (Android 1.5)

Donut (Android 1.6)

Eclair (Android 2.0 – 2.1)

Froyo (Android 2.2 – 2.2.3)

Gingerbread (Android 2.3 – 2.3.7)

Honeycomb (Android 3.0 – 3.2.6)

Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0 – 4.0.4)

Jelly Bean (Android 4.1- 4.3.1)

KitKat (Android 4.4 – 4.4.4)

Lollipop (Android 5.0 – 5.1.1)

Marshmallow (Android 6.0 – 6.0.1)

Nougat (Android 7.0 – 7.1.2)

Oreo (Android 8.0 – 8.1)

Pie (Android 9.0)

With Android 10 (aka “Quince Tart”), Google decided that it would switch over to version numbers just like Apple’s iOS.

The dessert code names haven’t gone away, but they are no longer the official public name of the operating system. For example, Android 11’s internal codename is “Red Velvet Cake.” Android 12’s dessert name is “Snow Cone”!

How to Update to the Latest Version of Android

If you’re raring to go and want to upgrade to the latest version of Android, there are a few ways to do it. The one that requires the least effort is simply waiting until you receive a notification that your phone is ready for a system update. Then you can simply schedule the update or proceed with it immediately, downloading the update over Wi-Fi.

If you want to check whether an update is available manually, open Settings and select software update.

Why Can’t I Update to the Latest Version of Android?

You may have been excited to see the official release date for the new version of Android has come and gone, but the offer to upgrade to it doesn’t seem to be available. As mentioned above, most Android phone makers take the time to customize Android before releasing it on their phones. This can take a few months, so you may have to wait for those new features.

Then again, companies like Samsung or Xiaomi add features to their custom version of Android that isn’t in the stock Android release or will only come in a future version. For example, a screen recording feature was only added to Android 11, but Samsung Galaxy phones (among others) have had this for years before Android 11’s release.

If your handset is older than two years, you may never receive the option to update your phone. Android phones have a notoriously short support cycle compared to iPhones, and you may find that you’re left out in the cold as they turn their attention to new handsets.

This is changing; for example, Samsung has committed to at least four Android version updates for its Galaxy S22 phone range. If you have a stock Android device such as the Google Pixel 6 or other Pixel phones, you can update as soon as a new Android version drops. However, Android may not support older models because they can’t handle new functionality.

What Happens if You Don’t Update?

If you can’t (or don’t want to) update to a newer version of Android, you can keep using your phone as usual. You should still get security updates and bug fixes for a few years. However, you may find that Android apps from the Google Play Store eventually drop support for your Android version, making your phone less useful over time.

When is Android 13 Available?

While Google has not given a firm release date for Android 13 “Tiramisu”, general expectations are that it will have a stable release late in Q3 or early in Q4 of 2023. The next Google I/O event will likely provide a firm date. Except for stock Android devices, users can expect to get Android 13 sometime in 2023.

Previewing Upcoming Android Versions

If you don’t want to wait to experience the next version of Android, you can try the preview builds meant for developers. If you have a Google Pixel device, you can install a developer preview build using developer tools on your phone. However, we don’t recommend that anyone do this on their primary device.

You can also grab a preview build from Google’s Developer site and run it in an Android Emulator to get a taste of what’s to come.

Getting New Android Versions on Unsupported Devices

If your phone manufacturer has abandoned Android updates for your device, you always have the option of installing a custom ROM on your phone. This means erasing the factory system image and replacing it with one made by a third party.

This is an excellent way to update a phone or tablet that is no longer receiving updates but may have competent hardware to run new versions of Android. However, you may face some downsides, such as losing manufacturer-specific features for that device. For example, if you have a fancy foldable phone, it’s unlikely that a custom ROM not meant for that handset would support folding functions.

Flashing your phone with a custom ROM is not for the faint-hearted, but if you follow the steps to root your device, install custom recovery software, and finally flash a custom ROM, you should get through it.

I Want to Go Back to an Older Version of Android

Getting the latest version of Android is great, but sometimes you may feel like you prefer the way things used to be, or perhaps there are significant bugs on your phone that you can’t live with until a patch arrives.

It is possible to roll back to a previous version of Android, but not using official methods. Instead, check out our guide on downgrading to an older Android version.

To The Outer Limits, And Back

To the Outer Limits, and Back Outing Club takes students to icy New Hampshire summit

With 40-pound backpacks and a temperature hovering at five degrees, seven men and one woman pushed their way toward the barren, windswept summit of Mount Adams, in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. The eight members of the BU Outing Club climbed the 5,774-foot behemoth with water bottles tucked into their shirts and pants to prevent the precious liquid from freezing. Excited and determined, they set out knowing bitter weather might force them to turn back, as it had last winter.

The trips, which can be free or can cost more than $40 to cover rental equipment, food, and gas, usually sell out within 10 minutes of their arrival in the email inboxes of over 1,300 students. The outings vary in their physical demands, but all are designed to promote an appreciation for the natural environment.

The group’s team of leaders (some of whom helm the executive board) share a passion for hiking and have outdoors experience ranging from a simple love for hiking as kids to an elite three-month Australian Outback expedition.

All about the details

On a Thursday night in February, the eight hikers gathered in a College of Arts & Sciences classroom to pack their bags for the overnight trip, a 12-mile round-trip climb of Mount Adams. Sleeping bags, fleece jackets, and trail maps were strewn across a large conference table.

“We want to make sure we have crampons, crimps, and ice packs,” said group president Julian Barthold (SMG’13). The Outing Club owns much of the equipment, and it rents or borrows gear from stores like EMS or the outing clubs of MIT and Harvard, Barthold said. He checked off the items on his list: multiple layers of T-shirts and fleeces, zero-degree sleeping bags, three liters of water per person. Everyone had to rent a pair of plastic hiking boots, which resemble downhill ski boots. “They’re not the most comfortable, and you’ll get blisters for sure, but they’re the warmest,” he said. Students also packed an ice axe, which can save a life if a hiker slips on an icy slope.

Pretrip meetings are all about the details; failure to pack the right supplies can mean danger or death as night falls and the temperature drops below zero. For winter treks, the hikers can’t be too careful. Trail markers are often covered by snow, and starting fires can be difficult.

“You can’t go into a backpacking trip thinking you’re fully prepared, because there’s always a degree of uncertainty and you need skills to adapt to that,” said club treasurer J. Tyler Wiest (SMG’14), who has been known to snack on bugs. “You can’t compromise safety—it’s all about minimizing risk. But collectively we have a lot of experience. I think we can handle just about anything that nature can throw to us.”

At 7 on Saturday morning, the eight hikers felt that they were as prepared as they could be as they began the three-hour drive from BU to Mount Adams, the second highest peak in the northeast United States, after nearby neighbor Mount Washington.

At the base of the mountain, the trails were surprisingly clear for this time of year, but as the hikers gained altitude and the air temperature dropped, trees and vegetation grew sparse. Soon they were plodding through deep snow. To ward off hypothermia they had to keep moving, taking only short breaks.

At dusk, the team reached the Perch (above), a three-sided hut at 4,300 feet. While it wasn’t heated, it provided some shelter from the wind. By the light of their headlamps, over a flame from a portable propane camp stove, they cooked sausage and peppers, cheese quesadillas, rice, and double fried beans. After dinner, they boiled snow to wash dishes, then poured the dirty hot water into their water bottles to warm their feet inside their sleeping bags. They slept in a close huddle, like Eskimos.

The next morning, the group rose early to make its final push to the summit. With icicles frozen to facial hair, they struggled to stay on the trail, buried deep under the snow. They were thankful for a day of full sun and clear blue skies.

It wasn’t until they began their descent that they saw the sign reading: “STOP. The area ahead has the worst weather in America. Many have died there from exposure, even in the summer. Turn back now if the weather is bad.”

Nothing but your own two legs

“When you climb a mountain like Mount Adams, you start off by essentially walking in a forest,” said Gary Kanner (CAS’12), reflecting on the trip after they had safely arrived back at BU. “And then you feel like you’re going uphill for hours, and you have no perspective on how far you’ve traveled and how high up you are. But once you get this first look around, you can see where you came from and what you’ve been through for the last day and a half. It’s mind-blowing to realize that on nothing but your own two legs you’ve taken yourself from where everyone looks like ants to way up high.”

“This was my first real winter ascent,” said Deirdre Halloran (CAS’11). “This was an opportunity to take a risk, and not to call my mom until I got home.”

While membership in the Outing Club is not required to go on one of its outings, the $20 dues entitles students to discounts on gear, a 15 percent discount on trips, and a chance to register first for trips.

“At BU, you’re always surrounded by buildings and cars and the T honking at you every day—it can get to be a little much,” said Tom Niblock (CAS’13), who did the Mount Adams trek. “When you’re spending a lot of time outside and camping outside, you get time to learn a lot about yourself. You form deep bonds with your trip mates, instead of talking about the same old homework and classes.”

“The Outing Club is about making the most of your college experience and trying something that you’ve never tried before,” said Nicole Merritt (CGS’12), the leader of the snow tubing trip and a member of the BUOC e-board. “New England has a lot to offer.”

Interested in learning more about the BU Outing Club? Read about joining here.

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