Neva again!

Update: Neva River is currently closed to public access.

I covered Neva River very briefly last year. The region is Neva Crystall’s private home, and every so often she will remodel it and then open it to the public for a couple of weeks, so that everyone can enjoy her builds – anyone who has visited Neva River will know why.

I recently saw word via Ziki Questi that Neva was moving towards re-opening the region. Since then, I’ve been waiting (not a little impatiently, I admit – along with a lot of other people!) for the doors to once again open.

Neva River
Neva River

Well, on March 20, the doors did open!

This is inevitably going to lead to a stampede to get to Neva River – indeed, but the time I got there, the place was fairly teeming with people; it’s a measure of the popularity of Neva’s builds. If you have 30-40 minutes some time in the next couple of weeks, I urge you to join the queue, particularly if you are, to borrow from Honour McMillan, a landscape junkie.

Neva River
Neva River

Last time around, the region focused on a water theme, with low sandbanks, waterlogged copses and small fields of grass beneath an orange sky. This time, Neva has gone for something far more undulating, but with a few little eclectic twists. From coastal beaches through rural country to deep gorges, with high bridges, meandering streams, and broad lakes, Neva River presents a landscape which offers much to see, and not a few things to do.

Neva River
Neva River

Starting at the tall lighthouse, located at the headland at one end of the region, you can follow wooden walkways, paths and rutted tracks across the region, encountering other visitors, the local animals (mostly sheep) and various delights and oddities which make a visit to Neva River something of an exploration (just how did a fishing boat end up so land-locked…?).

The region come with its own late afternoon windlight setting, but as is my wont, I opted to go for my “standard” settings, based around a couple of windlight presents I’ve slightly tweaked, and which I like as I feel they give a more natural look and feel to places (one is actually my default viewer’s standard windlight setting nowadays). If the images here don’t do the build justice, blame me, not Neva Crystall!

Neva River
Neva River

I will confess that I had a few problems during my wanderings through the region. However, I think these were pretty much down to the fact that the place is rather busy, people-wise, right now and the fact that I’m using a pre-release of a viewer, so SL is a little bit on the bumpy side for me right now.

All-in-all the rebuild has been worth the wait; once again Neva River is on the list of “must places” to visit in SL – but those wishing to do so had best hurry; the doors may not be open for ever!

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Water, white balance, rocks and glitches

CuriosityFollowing the announcement that Curiosity had found chemical and mineral signatures pointing towards Mars – or at the very least, Gale Crater – once being wet enough to create the right conditions in which micro-organisms may have once survived, the mission team has continued to analyse data returned by the rover over the last several weeks. In doing so, they have uncovered further evidence as to role of water in area during wet periods of Mars’ past.

The most recent findings from the Mars Science Laboratory team was presented to the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, being held in Texas, on March 18th, in which the team discussed the use of the infrared-imaging capability of the Mastcam system and the neutron-firing Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) instrument to find further evidence of the hydration of minerals in the area.

Mastcam’s ability to capture infra-red images means it can be used as a mineral-detecting tool and as a means of observing hydration in surface rock features, where the ratio of brightness in images captured at different near-infrared wavelengths can indicate the presence of hydrated minerals. The technique was used to check rocks in the “Yellowknife Bay” area and has revealed some rock formations in the area to be crisscrossed with bright veins.

An area of the target rock “Knorr” at “Yellowknife Bay”, some 25 cm (10 inches) across, mapping the amount of mineral hydration indicated by a ratio of near-infrared reflectance intensities as detected by Curiosity’s Mastcam. The scale on the right shows the assignment of colours for relative strength of the calculated signal for hydration. The map shows that the stronger signals for hydration are associated with pale veins and light-toned nodules in the rock. This image and data were recorded on Sol 133 (Dec. 20, 2012) – click to enlarge

“With Mastcam, we see elevated hydration signals in the narrow veins that cut many of the rocks in this area,” said Melissa Rice of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena. “These bright veins contain hydrated minerals that are different from the clay minerals in the surrounding rock matrix.” She went on to explain, “What Mastcam is seeing is water that is bound in the mineral structure of the rocks. This water is left over from a previous wet era and is now trapped and preserved in these hydrated minerals.”

The Russian-made DAN instrument on Curiosity detects hydrogen beneath the rover. At the rover’s very dry study area on Mars, the detected hydrogen is mainly in water molecules bound into minerals. “We definitely see signal variation along the traverse from the landing point to Yellowknife Bay,” said DAN Deputy Principal Investigator Maxim Litvak of the Space Research Institute, Moscow. “More water is detected at Yellowknife Bay than earlier on the route. Even within Yellowknife Bay, we see significant variation.”

Findings from the Canadian-made Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) on Curiosity’s arm-mounted turret indicate that the wet environmental processes that produced clay at Yellowknife Bay did so without much change in the overall mix of chemical elements present, and confirmed the elemental composition of the outcrop Curiosity drilled into matches the composition of basalt, the most common rock-type on Mars. The APXS findings were initially affected by the dust layer common to most surfaces on Mars, which masked the basaltic signature of the rocks until the rover’s wire brush was used to scrub a section of rock clean of the dust.

“By removing the dust, we’ve got a better reading that pushes the classification toward basaltic composition,” Curiosity science team member Mariek Schmidt said. The sedimentary rocks at Yellowknife Bay likely formed when original basaltic rocks were broken into fragments, transported, re-deposited as sedimentary particles, and mineralogically altered by exposure to water.

Continue reading “Water, white balance, rocks and glitches”