Unmasking a Cure presents a medieval faire for RFL

Medieval Faire
Medieval Faire

The Medieval Faire is a week-long event for RFL of SL, currently taking place through until Sunday, May 17th.  Whether you are into medieval role-play or not, the Faire is offering a host of events and activities right throughout the week, with something for just about everyone to try and / or enjoy.

The Faire is the brainchild of Nyza Stillwater, who is working as it’s General Manager, and  is being run by the Unmasking a Cure (UAC) RFL of SL relay team coordinated by Mary Teodosio and Jean Munro, and hosted by the Realm of Cedarwood. Activities are spread across a series of skyborne locations, with the central one taking the form of a medieval village surrounded by rolling hills and distance peaks.

Medieval Faire - NPCs add atmosphere
Medieval Faire – NPCs add atmosphere

Here can be found merchant stalls offering a rich cross-section of goods representing the medieval and fantasy genres, and additional atmosphere is given to the village by the inclusion of NPCs – dancers, market stall operators and minstrels. In and around this sits the activities on offer to visitors – the live entertainments stage, a carnival, a combat arena, fencing, archery, jousting, and a battleground, all surrounded by the relay horse track – an against-the-clock steeple chase.

There are tournaments scheduled throughout the Faire, and additional jousting lists can be reached via teleporter near the arrival point. As well as actual competitions, there are opportunities to watch exhibition events and receive training from some of the major medieval sports groups in Second Life – the Medieval Games Fellowship, the Second Life Tournament Association, Double Dragon Academy and the United Jousters.

Medieval Faire - the village
Medieval Faire – the village

General Entertainments will be occurring throughout the week, and there is an open invitation for anyone who wishes to DJ or perform to do so whenever there is a free slot in the general entertainment sechdule, with entertainers from other RFL teams allowed to rez their own kiosks while performing.

The full schedule of entertainments and events can be found on the Faire’s website, where information on the Faire’s auctions and raffles can also be found.

With plenty to see and do, and all of it to further the cause of RFL 2015, the UMC Medieval Faire offers something for everyone  – so why not pay it a visit?

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Tales from the Library

It’s time to kick-off another week of fabulous story-telling in voice, brought to our virtual lives by the staff and volunteers at the Seanchai Library.

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

Sunday, May 10th: Tea-time at Baker Street

With Caledonia Skytower, Kaydon Oconnell and Corwyn Allen. This week: The Adventure of the Copper Beeches, first published in June, 1892 in The Strand Magazine, and which formed the final adventure to be included in the volume of tales The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

Violet Hunter greets Holmes and Watson as they respond to her telegram and travel to Hampshire  - Sidney Paget, 1892
Violet Hunter greets Holmes and Watson as they respond to her telegram and travel to Hampshire – Sidney Paget, 1892

“As to my own little practice, it seems to be degenerating into an agency for recovering lost lead pencils and giving advice to young ladies from boarding-schools. I think that I have touched bottom at last, however. This note I had this morning marks my zero-point, I fancy. Read it!”

So laments Sherlock Holmes to John Watson over the breakfast table one cold morning, as to the general state of criminal affects and the degree to which challenges to his role as a consulting detective have dwindled in nature. The note he passes to Watson signifies, in his view, an introduction to yet another matter of triviality.

The note is from Violet Hunter, announcing her intent to call upon him right at that very time. While Holmes doubts her need will provide the challenge he desires, she does nevertheless bring to him a strange story, concerning a position as governess she has been offered with a family in Hampshire. For one thing, the position is offered at an annual salary almost twice her current level, and for another she is required to adhere to some rather odd provisos. As she has decided to take the position, Holmes suggests she sends him a telegram should she require his services.

Two weeks later, just such a telegram arrives…

Monday May 11th, 19:00: The Wizard of Karres Concludes

Gyro Muggins returns to the universe created by James H. Schmitz and given form through his 1949 novel, The Witches of Karres, as he continues reading the 2004 sequel, The Wizard of Karres, penned by by Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint, and Dave Freer, which reunites the reader with some familiar characters.

Wizard of KarresFor Captain Pausert, it would seem that the old saying that no good deed ever goes unpunished should perhaps become the family motto. As a “reward” for thwarting the plans of the space pirates and eliminating the threat of the Worm World, Pausert is given the secret mission of stopping the nanite plague, a self-aware disease that lay waste to entire planets worlds.

Only someone has once convinced the Imperial Navy, unaware of his true mission, that Pausert is actually a wanted man. so it is that the Navy set out to hunt him down – and almost succeed, managing to cripple his ship. When Pausert discovers his funding has also been cut-off, leaving him without the means to get his ship repaired, he and his companions, Goth and the Leewit, the Witches of Karres, are forced to go undercover – and join a travelling circus.

After all, the show – and the mission – must go on, and thus the adventures continue.

Tuesday May 12th, Gone Fishin’

The Library will be closed on Tuesday, May 12th, while staff and volunteers take a bit of a break.

Wednesday May 13th

06:00: Forever Erma

Freda Frostbite and Trolly Trollop share the great humour and wit of everyday life as written by Erma Bombeck.

19:00: Christie’s Detectives

Join Caledonia Skytower as she presents short stories featuring Agatha Christe’s beloved detectives: Parker Pyne, Jane Marple and Hercule Poirot.

Thursday May 14th

19:00: Prologues

With Shandon Loring.

21:00 Seanchai Late Night

With Finn Zeddmore.

Saturday May 16th, 12:00 Noon: Arabian Nights

Rub the magic lamp and make a wish… The Arabian Nights are folk tales full of genies, flying carpets, and daring adventures from Asia and the Middle East. Stories of far-out places and wild imagination that have captivated audiences for thousands of years.

With Shandon Loring at Seanchai Kitely (grid.kitely.com:8002/Inis Fada) and Seanchai InWorldz (https://inworldz/region/Sendalonde/217/144/28).

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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. The featured charity for April / May is Habitat for Humanity, with a vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live – a safe and clean place to call home.

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Space Sunday: Hubble at 25

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) as seen from the departing space shuttle Atlantis, flying STS-125, the final HST Servicing Mission, in 2009. This mission completely overhauled the space station in recognition of the fact that the next time humans might visit it would be to decommission it, and set it on course for controlled destruction in the Earth's atmosphere
The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) as seen from the departing space shuttle Atlantis, flying STS-125, the final HST Servicing Mission, in 2009. This mission completely overhauled the space station in recognition of the fact that it is unlikely to ever be refurbished again

One of the most famous – if not the most famous – space science instruments celebrated 25 years of orbital operations in April 2015.

There can be few people with access to television or media of any description who have not at some point in their lives heard of the NASA / ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Since its launch on April 24th, 1990, and after initial teething problems which required it be fitted with the space equivalent of a pair of spectacles, the Hubble Space Telescope – also referred to as HST, or simply “Hubble”  – has brought us some of the most stunning images of the planets of our solar system and deep space ever seen, giving us unique insights into the rest of the solar system, the galaxy in which we reside and the universe beyond.

The major advantage of the Hubble Space Telescope is that it operates above the distorting effect of the majority of the Earth atmosphere. Such is the benefits of such a location, that space telescopes were first proposed as early as 1923, and Hubble itself has a history stretching back as far as 1946, when astronomer Lyman Spitzer wrote Astronomical Advantages of an Extraterrestrial Observatory. For almost 20 years he continued to push the idea as the space programme came into existence until, in 1962, the US National Academy of Sciences took up the call and with three years, Spitzer had been appointed to chair a committee to define the scientific objectives for such a telescope. It was this work that gave birth to the Large Orbiting / Space Telescope in the 1970s, which became Hubble in the 1980s.

Cautaway of the Hubble Space Telescope
Cutaway of the Hubble Space Telescope showing the major components and sections

Named for the US astronomer Edwin Hubble, regarded as one of the most important observational cosmologists of the 20th century, the HST faced some unique challenges even before it was launched. First and foremost, in order to have as long an operational life as possible, it was designed to be serviced by astronauts, who could replace systems, fix failures, upgrade components, etc. Unfortunately, this also meant that Hubble had to be placed in a relatively low Earth orbit, resulting in further challenges.

Firstly, a low Earth orbit meant the telescope would spend half its time in bright sunlight, making observations in that part of its orbit next to impossible. It also meant an aperture door had to be fitted over the open end of the telescope, which could be closed to avoid the risk of direct sunlight falling onto the telescope’s optics and potentially damaging its science instruments.

April 25th, 1990. With its solar power panels deployed and forward optics door closed, and having been lifted into position by the shuttle's robot arm, Hubble is released in its orbit, ready for the shuttle Discovery to gently back away from it
April 25th, 1990. With its solar power panels deployed and forward aperture door closed, the space shuttle Discovery gently releases the Hubble Space Telescope at the start of its 25+ year mission

More particularly, an orbit around the Earth meant that Hubble would be passing from daylight into night every 48 minutes – and undergoing very wide swings in temperature from extremely hot to very, very cold. These not only would these cause significant heating and cooling issues for the more sensitive instruments on the telescope, they could also lead to expansion and contraction in parts of the telescope’s structure, which in turn could cause small amounts of vibration / movement when it was required to be an ultra-stable platform for space observations.

Nevertheless, despite the technical and engineering challenges the project faced, by the mid-1980s, Hubble was ready, and its launch was scheduled for October 1986. And then fate intervened, in the form of the tragic Challenger disaster of January 1986. This set back the US manned space programme by over two years, and resulted in Hubble’s launch being delayed until the 24th April 1990, when the space shuttle Discovery lifted off from Launch complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Centre on mission STS-31, and the following day successfully deployed the telescope in orbit. All seemed well with the telescope as it underwent on-orbit commissioning over the next couple of weeks; then a series of deep space test images were taken – and indicated a serious flaw in the telescope’s imaging capabilities.

Investigations were begun, and the problem was eventually traced to a error in the telescope’s primary mirror. The HST’s optics are a classic Cassegrain reflector, common to the majority of large professional telescopes, which comprises a very large primary mirror – in the case of Hubble some 2.4 metres (7 ft) across – and a smaller focusing mirror. Both have to be made to exacting tolerances through a process of grinding the reflective surfaces to their required shapes, and in the case of Hubble, the primary mirror had been ground to the wrong shape – by just 2.2 nanometres (a nanometre being one billionth of a metre).

December 8th, 1993, astronaut Kathryn C. Thornton (top of this image)  holds on to the COSTAR package as the shuttle Endeavour's robot arm slowly lifts her - and -it - clear of its cradle in the shuttle's payload bay, ready for installation into Hubble
December 8th, 1993, astronaut Kathryn C. Thornton (top of this image) holds on to the COSTAR package as the shuttle Endeavour’s robot arm slowly lifts her – and it – clear of its cradle in the shuttle’s payload bay, ready for installation into Hubble, which can be seen anchored in the shuttle’s bay behind her with the instrument bay doors open

Though tiny, the error was enough to seriously impact Hubble’s ability to carry out cosmological studies, although imaging of very bright objects (such as the planets in the solar system) was still possible. Indeed, and despite being the butt of media jokes and labelled a US $2.5 billion “white elephant”, from 1990 through 1993, Hubble still performed some remarkable work.

However, in 1993, the space shuttle Endeavour lifted-off on mission STS-61, the first of five planned Hubble Servicing Missions. While the huge primary mirror could not be repaired or replaced, the astronauts aboard Endeavour were, among a much broader series of upgrades for the telescope, able to replace one science package on the telescope with a series of corrective optics called COSTAR, and upgrade the telescope’s existing Wide Field Planetary Camera with a more refined version. Intended to counter-act the flaw in the mirror, these upgrades were the equivalent of giving Hubble a pair of glasses – and the results were spectacular.

Before and after: on the left, an image of the spiral galaxy M100 taken on on November 27th, 1993, without the corrective optics and camera system. On the right, M100 imaged by Hubble on  December 31st, 1993, after the installation of the corrective optics and camera system
Before and after – to images of the spiral galaxy M100, located approximately 55 million light years from Earth. On the left: an image taken by Hubble on November 27th, 1993, just before the first servicing mission. On the right, and image taken by Hubble on December 31st, 1993, after the installation of the corrective optics and camera system

Since that first operation, Hubble has been serviced four more times between 1997 and 2009, all of which have continued to keep it in good operational order, replacing things like the gyroscope packages that both keep it stable and allow it to be turned to face targets selected for observation, and have significantly updated the science packages it carries, massively increasing its research capabilities.

These missions also served a secondary purpose; while well above the bulk of the Earth’s atmosphere, Hubble still orbits within the second highest layer of the atmosphere, the thermosphere.  Although exceedingly tenuous, the thermosphere nevertheless exerts minute, but cumulative drag on objects such as HST and the International Space Station, slowly reducing their orbits. To counter this, the servicing missions flown to HST allowed the space shuttle to gently “lift” Hubble back “up” to its optimal orbit.

Tur colour images of the star cluster Pismis 24 at the heart of nebula NGC 6357, around 8,000 light years from Earth (image: NASA / ESA and Jesœs Ma­z Apellÿniz, Instituto de astrof­sica de Andaluc­a, Spain)
True colour images of the star cluster Pismis 24 at the heart of nebula NGC 6357, around 8,000 light years from Earth (image: NASA / ESA and Jesœs Ma­z Apellÿniz, Instituto de astrof­sica de Andaluc­a, Spain)

In the 25 years of operations, Hubble has contributed to some major scientific discoveries, assisted in resolving some major astronomical issues, witnessed some remarkable solar events, and has raised new cosmological questions. And, of course, it has brought us some of the most stunning images of our galaxy and the universe beyond it, forever changing our perception of the place in which we live.

In honour of it’s namesake, one of the primary elements of Hubble’s mission was to measure the distances to Cepheid variable stars which, because of its position in space, it could do with far greater accuracy than ever before achieved. These observations helped constrain the value of the Hubble constant, used to define the rate at which the universe is expanding (thus helping to more accurately determine the age of the universe).

Prior to HST’s work, estimates of the Hubble constant typically had errors of up to 50%; HST was able to produce measurements with an accuracy of ±10%, which have since been verified using other techniques.

As well as helping to more accurately pin down the age of the universe, Hubble also helped establish the Lambda Cold Dark Matter (“ΛCDM”) model as the “standard” model of Big Bang cosmology, by providing evidence that, rather than slowing down due to the influence of gravity (which would eventually lead to the universe contracting once more into the Big Crunch), the rate of expansion of the universe is actually accelerating, most likely due to the influence of so-called dark energy.

Continue reading “Space Sunday: Hubble at 25”