Tracking a lonely journey and marking a decade

CuriosityCuriosity, the NASA rover carrying the Mars Science Laboratory is continuing towards its rendezvous with the foothills of “Mount Sharp” (Aeolis Mons) in Gale Crater, Mars. As such, there is little coming out of NASA in terms of updates on progress (which would likely sound the robotic equivalent of “Are we there yet?” “No!” cycles).

However, on January 9th, NASA released several images captured by the  High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). Taken in both black-and-white and colour, these show Curiosity’s long and lonely drive across the “magnificent desolation” of Gale Crater.

Tracking Curiosity's progress towards "Mount Sharp" - the arrows point towards to tracks left by the rover as it heads southwest towards a gap in the dune field (seen lower right) sitting between it and the foothills of it's primary destination (click to enlarge)
Tracking Curiosity’s progress towards “Mount Sharp” – the arrows point towards to tracks left by the rover as it heads southwest towards a gap in the dune field (seen lower right) sitting between it and the foothills of its primary destination. For scale, the wheel tracks are about 3 metres (10 feet) apart (click to enlarge)

The images show the rover’s tracks as it manoeuvred around obstacles on its route toward the lower slopes of “Mount Sharp”, and were captured in early December 2013 as the MRO, which acts the and primary communications relay between Earth and Curiosity, passed over the rover’s location at an altitude  of some 250-316 kilometres (160-196 miles).

HiRISE first imaged the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft while it was descending on a parachute to place Curiosity on Mars 17 months ago. Since then, it has provided updated views of the rover’s traverse, as seen from orbit.

A rover’s progress: a large image of Curiosity’s journey, as captured by the HiRISE camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in December 11th, 2013. The rover itself is just out of frame to the lower left of the image. The orientation is so that north is to the top (click to enlarge)

At the time the images were captured, Curiosity had clocked-up some 4.61 kilometres (2.86 miles) since its arrival in Gale Crater in August 2012. The long trek in a generally southwest direction commenced in the latter half of 2013, after the rover had spent some six months within the “Glenelg” and “Yellowknife Bay” areas of the crater studying a range of rock and surface conditions which allowed Curiosity to meet criteria relevant to its primary mission objective – to determine whether Mars may have once harboured conditions in which life might have arisen.

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover and tracks left by its driving appear in this portion of a Dec. 11, 2013, observation by the The rover is near the lower-left corner of this view. For scale, the two parallel lines of the wheel tracks are about 3 metres (10 feet) apart.
NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover and tracks left by its driving appear in this portion of a Dec. 11, 2013, observation by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The rover is near the lower-left corner of this view. For scale, the two parallel lines of the wheel tracks are about 3 metres (10 feet) apart (click to enlarge)

Continue reading “Tracking a lonely journey and marking a decade”

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From Baker Street through Surrey to the peoples of the First Nation

It’s time to kick-off another week of fabulous story-telling in Voice for 2014, brought to Second Life by the staff and volunteers at the Seanchai Library SL.

As always, all times SLT, and unless otherwise stated, events will be held on the Seanchai Library’s home on Imagination Island.

Sunday January 12th, 13:30: Tea-time at Baker Street: A Study in Scarlet part 2

Caledonia Skytower and Shandon Loring return with a Seanchai favourite: Tea-time at Baker Street. This time they are going right back to the roots of the legend, and the case which first introduced the world to Doctor John Watson and the renowned Consulting Detective, Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

study-in-scarletA Study in Scarlet was written in 1886 as a full-length novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and published the following year. It is actually one of only four novel-length stories Conan Doyle penned about Holmes and Watson in the original canon (the remaining 56 tales of their adventures are all short stories).

Like the telling of the tale at Seanchai, the novel was split into two parts. The first of which served to introduce Holmes and Watson and establish their nature and initial relationship, as recalled by John Watson. Their meeting, through a mutual acquaintance, was fortuitous, Watson having been recently invalided out of the army and needing a roof over his head, and Holmes looking for someone with whom he could split the rent on a rather nice flat (apartment) at 221B Baker Street.

This first part of the novel also introduces the first case Holmes and Watson take on together: that of a mysterious murder which also serves to introduce Inspectors Lestrade and Gregson. A second murder soon follows, with Holmes already at odds with Scotland Yard over suspects and motive.

Part two of the novel picks-up the events of the story from the perspective of those primarily involved in the murders: the victims themselves and, in turn those who lives they had blighted while more than 3,000 miles from London.

Join Cale and Shandon as they continue with their own second part to the story that started a legend.

Monday January 13th, 19:00: Miracles: a Trio of Island Tales

Trio Island  Book Cover V3 smallJoin Caledonia Skytower as she reads from her own book Miracles: a Trio of Island Tales, best describes in her own words:

“Belief is essential part of life.  If there is a through-line to most of my work, it is the essential need for all of us to believe in something beyond ourselves.  It does not matter what.  Simply believe.  By believing in something beyond yourself, you learn to better understand your world: to believe in yourself.

“Belief is woven into all three stories in Miracles: A Trio of Island Tales.  These stories are fictionalizations of family stories shared by my collaborator, Saane Tome.  She is a native-born Tongan and devout Christian. The power of her stories is moving and undeniable.  You may or may not share her belief system, and that does not really matter.  It is hard to hear her stories and not recognize the essential power of them.”

Tuesday January 14th, 19:00: Treasure it the Heart of the Tanglewood

Faerie Maven-Pralou concludes her reading of Meredith Ann Pierce’s 2001 novel for young adults.

TanglewoodHannah lives by the fearsome Tanglewood with a few talkative companion animals. She doesn’t age, and she has no memory of anything but this life of isolation. Once a month she plucks the flowers that grow from her head, a painful process in which “each yank made her whole scalp ache”, and brews them into a tea for the wizard who lives deep in the woods.

When Hannah falls in love with one of the many knights who seek the treasure of the book’s title, she starts to question the wizard’s motives, finding he has turned the knight into a fox.

Escaping the wizard’s manipulative grasp, Hannah sets out to find a cure for the knight, an adventure in which she discovers her own identity and the repercussions of some of her actions while under the wizard’s influence and control.

Wednesday January 15th, 19:00: The Beekeeper’s Apprentice

In 1915, a 54-year-old Sherlock Holmes find his retirement to the Sussex Downs, where he is studying the habits of the honey bee, to be interrupted by the unexpected arrival of 15-year-old Mary Russell. American by birth, Ms. Russell had come to England to live with her Aunt following the tragic death of her parents in an automobile accident.

Holmes is impressed by the young lady’s wit and intellect, ne before he knows it, he finds himself teaching her his former tradecraft of solving crimes. Thus was formed a new partnership is formed between the very modern young Miss Russell and the very Victorian Great Detective.

Now Caledonia Skytower returns with more tales from the pen of Laurie R. King, and her series of stories for young adults which focus on the adventure Ms Russell and Mr. Sherlock Holmes shared.

Thursday January 16th

16:00: First Nation Tales

Caledonia Skytower and Dubhna Rhiadra sit down to bring us more native tales from the first peoples of the North American continent. Drawing on  number of sources and resources, Cale and Dubna have, over the years, drawn together collections of stories and legends from across a number of First Nation peoples, including the Zuni, Omaha, Paiute, and Hopi as well as legends from Kwaikutlsome in Western Canada. Some of these stories have been published, others of which have come from the long tradition of the spoken word, with archetypal tales handed down through successive generations.

“We have everything from Raven stealing the moon, to how Winter and Summer came to be, and the Creation of Corn,” Cale says of the stories. “The thing I like about them, is the imagery and the “themes” are almost Aesopian. They are all lesson/moral/cautionary tales.”

Join Cale and Dubhna as they delve into this treasure chest of tales and legends.

19:00: The Early Adventures of Finn McCool

Shandon Loring continues reading Bernard Evslin stories about the legendary Finn McCool – Fionn mac Cumhaill – the mythical hunter / warrior who appears in folklore spanning Ireland, the Isle of Man and parts of Scotland, as well as sharing some links with Welsh mythology.

finn McCoolAlso known as the “Green Hero”, Finn McCool drew his name “Finn” or “Fionn”, meaning “blond”, “fair”, “white”, or “bright”, from the fact that his hair turned prematurely white. According to legend, he was born of Cumhall – leader of the Fianna (small, semi-independent warrior bands found in both Irish and Scottish mythology) and Muirne, daughter of the druid Tadg mac Nuadat.

Raised in secret, Fionn, who was originally called Deimne, became a skilled hunter and warrior, serving several local kings, albeit incognito, due to the events surrounding his mother and father – and the latter’s death.

Evslin draws upon the famous legend to weave a series of stories about the life of a young Fionn in the times before he became the giant of Irish folklore.

21:00 Seanchai Late Night

Details still TBA, so please check with the Seanchai Library blog as the week progresses.

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Please check with the Seanchai Library SL’s blog for updates and for additions or changes to the week’s schedule.

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