Space Sunday extra: Philae, the little lander that could, wakes up!

Rosetta (r),Philae and, behind them, comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko seen in an artist’s impression of the mission
Rosetta (r),Philae and, behind them, comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko seen in an artist’s impression of the mission

On Wednesday, November 12th, after 10 years in space, travelling aboard its parent vehicle, Rosetta, the lander Philae touched down on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko (67P/C-G). It was the climax of an amazing space mission spanning two decades – and yet was to be just the beginning. Packed with instruments, it was hoped that Philae would immediately commence around 60 hours of intense scientific investigation, prior to its batteries discharging, causing it to switch to a solar-powered battery system.

Unfortunately, things didn’t quite work out that way. As I’ve previously reported, the is very little in the way of gravity on the comet, so in order for Philae to avoid bouncing off of it when landing, several things had to happen the moment it touched the comet’s surface. As it turned out, two of these things didn’t happen, with the result that the lander did bounce – twice.

Philae shortly after departing Rosetta, with the landing legs deployed, the solar panel
Philae shortly after departing Rosetta, on Wednesday November 12th, 2014 with the landing legs deployed, the solar panel “walls” on the sides of the lander clearly visible.

The first time it rose to around 1 kilometre above the comet before descending once more in a bounce lasting and hour and fifty minutes, the second time it bounced for just seven minutes. Even so, both of these bounces meant the lander eventually came to rest about a kilometre away from its intended landing zone. What’s worse, rather than touching down in an area where it would received around 6-7 hours of sunlight a “day” as the comet tumbles through space, it arrived in an area where it was only receiving around 80-90 minutes of sunlight – meaning that it would be almost impossible to charge the solar-powered battery system.

Even so, the lander commenced science operations as planned, and despite having only limited power within its batteries, and insufficient means to fully recharge them, Philae returned almost all of its anticipated science data. However, in the morning of Saturday, November 15th (UK / European time), being unable to charge its solar batteries, the lander “safed” itself and entered a state of hibernation, leaving scientists hoping that as the comet continues towards the Sun, sufficient sunlight would fall across the lander in order for it to successfully recharge its batteries.

It happened. On Sunday, June 14th, ESA operations announced that communications with Philae had been re-established.

ESA Operations announced contact re-established with the comet-landing Philae
ESA Operations announced contact re-established with the comet-landing Philae

So far, some 300 packets of data have been returned to Earth via Philae’s parent craft, Rosetta, as it orbits the comet since communications were re-established at 23:28 GMT on Saturday, June 13th. This data revealed that Philae appears to have been awake for a while, the comet’s “fall” towards the Sun having done the trick, but the Sunday, June 14th contact marked the first time Philae had managed to reach Rosetta.

The initial 85-second communication is still being analysed, but has indicated there are around 8,000 additional packets of data to be returned by the lander, the initial information being largely concerned with information on Philae’s overall condition.

As well as tweeting directly on the resumption of contact, ESA also issued a Tweet “from” Philae announcing the news.

Philae’s “Tweet” on the resumption of contact

That there is still some 8,000 packets of data still within Philae’s memory, which is likely to be science data the lander has gathered over the last few days as it has come out of its seven month hibernation. As the comet becomes more active as it continues inward towards the sun-ward, Philae is in a prime position to discover more about these remnants of the earliest history of the solar system.

During its initial 60 hours of operations prior to going into hibernation, The lander discovered organic molecules on the comet, results of which were sent back from Philae’s Cosac instrument (one of the ten science instruments on the lander), thus fulfilling one of its primary mission objectives.

While Philae may have been in hibernation for the last seven months, its parent vehicle, which bears the same name as the mission, has not and has continued to orbit the comet and gather data as the comet gradually sweeps through the solar system towards the sun – it is currently some 205 million kilometres (127 million miles) distant, and will reach its nearest point in August before heading back in to the far reaches of the solar system.

The first image from the surface of a comet, returned to Earth by the Rosetta lander Philae, November 13th, 2014. image: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA
The first image from the surface of a comet, returned to Earth by Philae, November 13th, 2014. image: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA

Continue reading “Space Sunday extra: Philae, the little lander that could, wakes up!”

Relay for Life: celebrate 10 years of T1 Radio in Second Life

01 T1Radio Sign - v2011On Sunday, June 14th, T1 Radio will hold a special anniversary party to celebrate ten years of broadcasting in Second Life.

In January 2005 T1 Radio, the official broadcaster for Relay for Life of Second Life, first started broadcasting as Radio dAlliez, operating from the late Alliez Mysterio’s La Vie En Rose club.

The idea for the station came from Alliez and Tony Beckett; they approached Trader Whiplash, at that time new to DJing in Second Life, to take on the role of the station’s DJ. It proved to be a good choice; Trader learned his craft rapidly, offering sets focused on classic rock and roll which both differentiated Radio dAlliez from the more typical pop and electronic music heard in clubs at the time, and proved to be a popular with La Vie En Rose patrons.

By June 2005, with a growing private island residential business with dAlliez Estates, Alliez and Tony were considering closing down the station, but agreed that Trader to take over its running; thus T1 Radio was born, operated by Trader and his best friend, Nuala Maracas. Following the change, T1 Radio continued to operate from Rue dAlliez through until 2011, when it and the Legends Rock Club moved to is own region at Arinultra Cay.

T1 Radio at
T1 Radio at Arinultra Cay

As well as broadcasting a wide range of programmes throughout the week, T1 Radio has, over the years, become synonymous with Relay for Life. The relationship started with the very first RFL of SL season in 2005, when Trader and (himself a leukemia survivor) and Nuala formed the Relay Rockers to assist in fund-raising.

In 2006, a grid-wide issue led to a loss of audio with the scheduled stream, T1 Radio were able to fill the void. the following year, Fayandria Foley invited T1 Radio to be the 2007 RFL of SL broadcaster; the station has continued in that role through until the present day. Such has been the relationship that, in 2014, the American Cancer Society and Relay for Life recognised T1Radio for its dedication and contributions to what has become one of the largest Relay For Life fund-raisers in the world by inducting them in the RFL of SL Hall of Honour.

Legend rock club: home of T1 Radio
Legend Rock club: home of T1 Radio

Other highlights from T1 Radio’s history include:

  • 2006: 1st Relay For Life weekend broadcast
  • 2007: Provides voice to Opening, Closing and Luminaria Ceremonies
  • 2008: 1st Broadcast of Kick Off, Halfway There and Wrap Up
  • 2010: Sponsors 1st Holiday of Hope Ball
  • 2011: Moves To Arinultra Cay
  • 2012: Introduces Relay Rap – the Talk Show For and About the Relay For Life of Second Life
  • 2012: Becomes AviChoice audio producer
  • 2015: Trader and T1Radio are AviChoice finalists and T1Radio and staff garner 5 nominations overall.

Over the years, T1 Radio has involved a number of well-known names in the world of SL entertainment, including Anthony Wesburn, Java Mama,  Sassyblonde Hebert and Rex Tardis, and Radio Riel’s Gabby Riel. Today, Diana ‘Dee’ Wolfe and Madelyn Majestic continue to broadcast weekly shows.

To find out more about T1 Radio, you can tune-in to their shows via Shoutcast or the TuneIn App, and can follow T1 Radio events and activites through the T1 Radio Listeners Group.

T1 Radio's 10th Anniversary celebrations will take place at Relay dAlliez
T1 Radio’s 10th Anniversary celebrations will take place at Relay dAlliez

Join the Party

The party marking T1 Radio’s 10th anniversary will take place at Relay dAlliez, starting at 15:00 SLT and running through until 19:00, it will feature feature T1Radio’s current air-staff, alumni and special surprise guests. Team Relay rockers RFL of Sl kisoks will be available throughout the celebrations, and all donations made will go directly to RFL of SL.

Space Sunday: imaging tiny worlds, flying saucers, and a matter of size

Dawn mission patch (NASA / JPL)
Dawn mission patch (NASA / JPL)

The joint ESA / NASA Dawn mission to study two of the solar system’s three “protoplanets” located in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, continues to intrigue scientists.

Launched in September 2007, and costing US $446 million, Dawn is part of a broader effort to better understand the origins of the solar system and how the planets actually formed; all of which might give us greater understanding of how life arose here on Earth.

The mission has been relatively low-key when compared to the likes of NASA’s MSL rover on Mars or Europe’s Rosetta mission to comet 67P/C-G and NASA’s other mission to tiny world. New Horizons, but the Dawn spacecraft and mission are quite remarkable. The little spacecraft is use ion propulsion to enter orbit around a planetary body and is the first to orbit a dwarf planet and, since its arrival in orbit around Ceres, the first spacecraft from Earth to visit that tiny dwarf planet and the first mission to orbit two separate extraterrestrial bodies.

Dawn arrived at Ceres in March 2015, after a 2.5 year transit flight from Vesta, its first destination, where it spent 14 months in orbit following its arrival there in July 2011. Because of their relative size – Ceres accounts for around one-third of the total mass of the asteroid belt –  both of these airless, rocky bodies are regarded as dwarf planets, rather than “simple” asteroids.  However, they are both very different bodies to one another.

Dawn mission (NASA / JPL) - click for full size
Dawn mission (NASA / JPL) – click for full size

With a diameter of 525 kilometres (326 miles), Vesta is the smaller of these two worldlets, and is technically regarded as water-poor achondritic asteroid comprising a tenth of the mass of the asteroid belt. Its density is lower than the four inner planets of the solar system but higher than most of the moons and asteroids.

A June 6th image of the bright spots within a crater on Ceres, captured by Dawn on June 6th, 2015, from a distance of
A June 6th image of the bright spots within a crater on Ceres, captured by Dawn on June 6th, 2015, from a distance of 4,400 kilometres / 2,700 miles (NASA / JPL) – click for full size

Ceres, with a diameter of 950 kilometres (590 miles), is just 2.5 times smaller than distant Pluto, the target of the New Horizons mission. Its spectral characteristics suggest a composition similar to that of a water-rich carbonaceous chondrite. Like most of the material within the asteroid belt, it formed very early in the history of the Solar System, thereby retaining a record of events and processes from the time of the formation of the terrestrial planets.

Since arriving in orbit around Ceres, Dawn has returned some intriguing images of apparent bright spots within a crater. These were first seen in late 2014, as Dawn made its initial approach to Ceres, and have since been imaged on numerous occasions, and have been tracked as Ceres rotates, eliminating them as being imaging artefacts. Studies of much lower resolution images of Ceres taken by the Hubble Space Telescope also reveal these bright spots – although such is the distance of Ceres from Hubble that where they do appear in HST pictures, they are little more than a single bright blob.

The thinking on the bright areas are that they are water ice  or possibly frozen salt deposits – although they could be something more exotic. Over the last two months, Dawn has been able to image the bright areas, which lie in a crater some 92 kilometres (57 miles) across, situation some 19 degrees above Ceres’ equator. On June 6th, 2015, Dawn returned the best images yet of the bright spots, and these have been added to an animation made up of multiple images of Ceres, showing it rotating about its axis.

At the end of June, Dawn will commence a series of manoeuvres which will gently lower its orbit over the period of 6 weeks, allowing it to get much more detailed images of the surface of Ceres and these strange spots. As the images will also be captured from multiple angles, scientists hope they’ll provide sufficient information for the composition of the bright spots to be understood.

Continue reading “Space Sunday: imaging tiny worlds, flying saucers, and a matter of size”

Clerks, cats, belles, mermaids and spacemen

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 all events in Second Life are held at the Seanchai Library’s home at Bradley University. Locations for events in InWorldz and Kitely are given within the write-ups for those events.

Sunday, June 14th

13:00 Tea-time at Baker Street

Caledonia Skytower, Kaydon Oconnell and Corwyn Allen continue reading The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, originally published in 1894, and which brings together twelve (or eleven in US editions of the volume) adventures featuring Holmes and Watson, as originally published in The Strand Magazine. This week: The Adventure of the Stockbroker’s Clerk, first published in  March 1893.

“Pycroft shook his clenched hands in the air” – Sidney Paget, 1893

For three months after taking over the practice I was kept very closely at work and saw little of my friend Sherlock Holmes, for I was too busy to visit Baker Street, and he seldom went anywhere himself save upon professional business. I was surprised, therefore, when, one morning in June, as I sat reading the British Medical Journal after breakfast, I heard a ring at the bell, followed by the high, somewhat strident tones of my old companion’s voice.

“Ah, my dear Watson,” said he, striding into the room, “I am very delighted to see you! I trust that Mrs. Watson has entirely recovered from all the little excitements connected with our adventure of the Sign of Four.”

“Thank you, we are both very well,” said I, shaking him warmly by the hand.

Holmes’ visit to the home of Dr and Mrs J. Watson is more than just casual; he wishes his friend to accompany him and one Hall Pycroft, a stockbroker, on a trip to Birmingham. It seems that said company had offered Mr. Pycroft a management position, albeit in France, and had sweetened the offer with a rather handsome £100 advance.

While his suspicions that all was not as it seemed had not prevented Mr. Pycroft from accepting the position, further events had drawn him to the conclusion that something rather odd was indeed going on. Thus, he had sought the assistance of Sherlock Holmes, who had decided a further visit to the firm’s Birmingham offices to be in order. He had also deduced that the case would be sufficiently engaging to warrant the involvement of his chronicler and friend, John Watson.

18:00 Magicland Storytime – Thomasina Part 2

thomasinaJoin Caledonia Skytower at Magicland Park as she continues reading Paul Gallico’s 1957 novel (and later a 1963 Walt Disney film starring none other that Patrick McGoohan, alongside Karen Dotrice – who also appeared in Disney’s Mary Poppins and The Gnome Mobile – and Susan Hampshire).

When Thomasina, young Mary’s cat, suffers injury, Mary’s veterinarian father and widower, is typically unsympathetic , and rather than treating the cat, has it put to sleep – earning himself the enmity of his daughter, who declares him dead to her.

Thomasina, meantime, finds herself in cat heaven, only to be returned to Earth because she has lived only one of her nine lives. Thus begins a series of adventures involving Thomasina, Mary, her father and a local woman regarded as a “witch” by the children, but who has a caring way with animals…

Monday June 15th, 19:00: Science-Fiction Shorts

Gyro Muggins reads Isaac Asimov’s 1955 science-fiction crime story The Singing Bell, which involves murder, Moon rocks and justice. He turn turns to the Zelazny / Sheckley short, Star Light.

Tuesday June 16th, The Great Gatsby, Part 4

Great GatsbyCaledonia Skytower, Corwyn Allen and Kaydan Oconnell continue reading of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s magnificent 1925 novel.

In 1922, Nick Carraway arrives in New York to learn about the bond business. He rents a small cottage in West Egg, home of the newly-rich, only to discover the owner of the huge Gothic mansion next door, the deeply mysterious Jay Gatsby, is prone to throwing lavish parties every weekend, to which in seems everyone comes. Everyone it seems, except Nick’s cousin Daisy, who is married to Tom Buchanan. Together they live across the bay in the more fashion East Egg, where the “old money” resides.

Following a visit with them, Nick is slowly drawn into their world, both discovering Tom Buchanan has a mistress who lives in the Valley of Ashes, an industrial area lying between the Eggs and New York city, and finding himself increasingly attracted to the Buchanan’s friend, the beautiful, if cynically minded, Jordan Baker.

Then, one Saturday, Nick finds himself invited to one of Jay Gatsby’s great parties, and is thus drawn into an increasingly deep well of infatuation, lust, and tragedy, witnessing first hand a darker side of the so-called American Dream.

Wednesday June 17th

06:00: Forever Erma

Erma BombeckErma Bombeck achieved great popularity for her newspaper column that described suburban home life from the mid-1960s until the late 1990s. She also published 15 books, most of which became bestsellers. From 1965 to 1996, Erma Bombeck wrote over 4,000 newspaper columns, using broad and sometimes eloquent humour, chronicling the ordinary life of a mid-western suburban housewife. By the 1970s, her columns were read twice-weekly by 30 million readers of the 900 newspapers in the U.S. and Canada

Join Freda Frostbite and Trolly Trollop as the delve into Erma’s wit and wisdom of everyday life, joined by Caledonia Skytower.

19:00: The Tail of Emily Windsnap Part 2

Faerie Maven-Pralou reads from the first volume in Liz Kesseler’s series about a young girl who, having always lived on a boat but having been kept away from the water by her mother, finally gets to have swimming lessons. With them comes a remarkable discovery that leads her into another world…

Thursday June 18th 19:00: Edgar Allan

Shandon Loring enters the world of the Master of the Macabre.

Saturday June 20th 12:00 noon Seanchai Kitely: The Adventures of Luke Skywalker

So, where were you in 1977?  Do you remember the first time you saw the first film?  The first 25 times you saw the first film?  Maybe you have never seen it at all.  Join Caledonia on Seanchai Library’s Spaceworld to enjoy for the first time (or re-live the joy) of those first adventures from an edition penned by Director George Lucas himself! – Eirc.


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 June / July is the The Xerces Society, at the forefront of invertebrate protection worldwide, harnessing the knowledge of scientists and the enthusiasm of citizens to implement conservation programmes.

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