Space Sunday: perfectly Pluto

New Horizons (travelling approximately left-to-right) passes Pluto on July 14th, 2015, with Charon beyond, in NASA's Eyes on Pluto simulation
New Horizons (travelling approximately top left to bottom right) passes Pluto on July 14th, 2015, with Charon beyond, in NASA’s Eyes on Pluto simulation

It’s a mission that cost $650 million to mount, took 5 years of planning and building prior to spending 9.5 years in space as one of the fastest man-made objects yet built (and the fastest ever at launch); it has travelled some 4.76 billion kilometres to reach its destination, swinging by and studying Jupiter  (the first time we’ve done so close-up in over decade) in the process. All this for a close encounter which, due to the speed of the vehicle, could be measured in a mere hours.

But what an encounter!

I’m of course referring to NASA’s New Horizons mission which, on July 14th, 2015, after all of the above, flashed by the Pluto-Charon system precisely on target and just 72 seconds ahead of it’s  predicted arrival time of 11:49:59 UTC at its closest point to Pluto.

Encounter trajectory: New Horizons' flight path is shown is red, running right-to-left in 10 minute time increments. The times for the vehicle's closest encounters with Pluto and Charon on July 14th, 2015, are given, together with the times of occultation - when both worldlets would be directly between the spacecraft and Earth
Encounter trajectory: New Horizons’ flight path is shown is red, running right-to-left in 10 minute time increments. The times for the vehicle’s closest encounters with Pluto and Charon on July 14th, 2015, are given, together with the times of occultation – when both worldlets would be directly between the spacecraft and Earth – click for full size

Obviously, the overall encounter has been going on for some time now, as I previewed in my  Space Sunday report of July 12th: what NASA called the “distant encounter phase” started in January 2015, and even now, as New Horizons heads away from Pluto and Charon, observations are still being made. But the mission has always been about the hours immediately either side of that point of closest approach, when New Horizons flashed by Pluto at a speed relative to the planet of 13.77 km/s (8.56 miles per second).

The close approach wasn’t something that could be followed in real-time, the time delay in transmissions from the probe to Earth being some 4.5 hours. This being the case, NASA kept people informed with images and information recorded in the hours leading-up to the period of closest approach, such as a stunning image of Pluto captured by New Horizon’s LORRI and Ralph instruments on July 13th. Since then, they’ve been releasing a steady stream of the initial images that have been returned by the probe.

July 13th: two views of Pluto. On the left is an approximate true-colour image of the surface of Pluto, captured by the LORRI imaging system on New Horizons, and colour-enhanced by data obtained by the Ralph suite of instruments. On the right, a false-colour image indicating the compositional differences comprising Pluto's surface
July 13th: two views of Pluto. On the left is an approximate true-colour image of the surface of Pluto, captured by the LORRI imaging system on New Horizons, and colour-enhanced by data obtained by the Ralph suite of instruments. On the right, a false-colour image indicating the compositional differences comprising Pluto’s surface.

Pluto also appears to be an active planet – more so than had been imagined – with distinct compositional difference across its surface, making understanding of some of its characteristics difficult, so it is going to be some time before a range of questions relating to Pluto’s formation, development, etc., are liable to be answered, as many of them are going to have to wait for the arrival of very high-resolution lossless images from the probe, some of may now be received until well into next year (transmission of all the data recorded by New Horizons will take some 16 months).

In particular, New Horizons focused on a bright region positioned towards the centre of the of Pluto’s sunlit side and initially dubbed “Pluto’s Heart” due to its shape (seen  most clearly in the image above left). Now informally christened “Tombaugh Regio”, after Pluto’s discoverer, Clyde Tombaugh,  the region has been of interest to the science team due to its apparent “youthful” appearance: it is relatively crater-free, suggesting the surface has undergone significant re-working compared to the surface features around it, which are far more heavily cratered.

The mountains of “Pluto’s Heart” are in the south-west of the “Tombaugh Regio” and were imaged on July 14th, 2015, when New Horizons was 77,000 km (48,700 miles) from Pluto, and 90 minutes from its point of closest approach at just 12,800 km (8,000 miles).

The region is home to a series of intriguing features, including the “Norgay Montes”, named after Tenzing Norgay, Edmund Hillary’s companion on the 1953 ascent of Mount Everest. This is a range of mountains rising some 3,300 metres (10,000 feet) above the surrounding plains, and which are estimated to be around 100 million years old, making them one of the youngest surface features seen in the solar system (younger than the Appalachian Mountains in North America, for example). There are believed to be a exposed region of Pluto’s bedrock, itself likely to be heavily comprised of water ice.

Continue reading “Space Sunday: perfectly Pluto”

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Art is Protest

Art is Protest: Staten Island, July 17th 2014, Nino Vichan
Art is Protest: Staten Island, July 17th 2014, Nino Vichan

In Art is Protest, open now at Rubin Mayo’s Trésor de l’Art, we are invited to view exhibits by SL artist Nino Vichan and RL artist Basu Kshitiz.

Nino’s installation, reached via a large entryway to one side of the landing area, entitled Staten Island, July 17th 2014, is an examination of the events of July 17th, 2014, in which African American Eric Garner met his death at the hands of officers from the New York City Police Department, and the events which followed in the wake of his death.

Art is Protest: Staten Island, July 17th 2014, Nino Vichan
Art is Protest: Staten Island, July 17th 2014, Nino Vichan

The installation is presented in a 3-part narrative. I Can’t Breathe (a reference to a phrase repeatedly uttered by Eric Garner), presents  the events of July 17th, 2014, and the death of Mr. Garner. Black Lives Matter recalls the widespread civil unrest which occurred across the United States in late 2014 after a grand jury decided not to indict Daniel Pantaleo, the officer perhaps most directly involved in Mr. Garner’s death. Finally, Violence Begets Violence causes us to reflect upon the events of December 20th, 2014,  when Ismaaiyl Abdullah Brinsley shot and killed Brooklyn police officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Lui as a direct response to Mr, Garner’s death and the Ferguson, Missouri, police shooting of Michael Brown on August 9th, 2014. Brinsley himself then committed suicide.

This is perhaps not the most comfortable of installations to visit – but that’s precisely the point; in marking the anniversary of an event which still has repercussions today, Nino is challenging us not only to revisit and consider the matters of Mr. Garner’s death and the events which then followed, but also to question the issue of violence as a whole.

Art is Protest:  Basu Kshitiz
Art is Protest: Basu Kshitiz

The route through the three scenes of Staten Island, July 17th 2014 will return you to the landing area, which features a display of work by artist and political commentator Basu Kshitiz.

Nepal is a country riven not only by earthquakes, as we so recently witnessed, but also by extreme poverty (it is 145th of 187 countries on the Human Development Index) and much more besides. Since the end of the decade-long civil war in 2008, the country has also been in a state of political turmoil, with rampant corruption in both government and business.

Art is Protest: Basu Kshitiz
Art is Protest: Basu Kshitiz

Basu’s work, which appears in annapurapost.com, the on-line portal for the Annapura Post, a daily newspaper in Nepali language, seeks to drawn attention to political corruption and social injustices which continue to deny many in his country with the basic essentials of water, healthcare, education and energy.

Art is Protest will remain open through to September.

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Doctors, cats, wizards, pigs and setting a watchman

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 events are held at the Library’s Second Life home at Bradley University, unless otherwise indicated.

Sunday, July 19th

13:30: 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 Resident Patient, first published in 1893.

The Adventure of the Resident Patient, an 1893 illustration by Sidney Paget
The Adventure of the Resident Patient, an 1893 illustration by Sidney Paget

“In glancing over the somewhat incoherent series of Memoirs with which I have endeavored to illustrate a few of the mental peculiarities of my friend Mr. Sherlock Holmes, I have been struck by the difficulty which I have experienced in picking out examples which shall in every way answer my purpose. For in those cases in which Holmes has performed some tour de force of analytical reasoning, and has demonstrated the value of his peculiar methods of investigation, the facts themselves have often been so slight or so commonplace that I could not feel justified in laying them before the public. On the other hand, it has frequently happened that he has been concerned in some research where the facts have been of the most remarkable and dramatic character, but where the share which he has himself taken in determining their causes has been less pronounced than I, as his biographer, could wish. The small matter which I have chronicled under the heading of “A Study in Scarlet,” and that other later one connected with the loss of the Gloria Scott, may serve as examples of this Scylla and Charybdis which are forever threatening the historian. It may be that in the business of which I am now about to write the part which my friend played is not sufficiently accentuated; and yet the whole train of circumstances is so remarkable that I cannot bring myself to omit it entirely from this series. “

And so, in his inimitable style, does John Watson introduce the reader to the rather strange case of Doctor Percy Trevelyan. Having entered into a novel, if satisfactory business arrangement with a man called Blessington, Dr. Trevelyan now finds things becoming increasingly odd as Blessington’s behaviour grows increasingly erratic and a strange pair of Russians seem interested in the practice for more than just the purpose of seeking medical assistance.

18:00 Magicland Storytime – Thomasina

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 July 20th, 19:00: The Wizard of Karres

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 Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint, and Dave Freer. So why not join Gyro as he once more traces the adventures of Captain Pausert and his companions, Goth and the Leewit, the Witches of Karres.

Tuesday July 21st, Go set a Watchman

WatchmanFollowing selected readings from To Kill a Mockingbird by Caledonia Skytower, Kaydon Oconnell and Gyro Muggins, it is now the turn of Trolley Trollop to read selected passages to Harper Lee’s newly published Go set a Watchman.

While referred to as a “sequel” to Mockingbird, Lee’s 1960 Pulitzer-prize winning novel, Watchman actually pre-dates it, having been completed in 1957, leading Lee herself to refer to it as Mockingbird’s “parent”.

The story focuses on Scout Finch, the narrator of Mockingbird, who is here seen as an adult and using her given name, as she returns to her father’s home in Maycomb, Alabama, where she re-lives events from her childhood (including those central to the narrative of Mockingbird) as she tries to come to terms with political and personal issues, notably her own feelings about her birthplace and upbringing, and her father’s attitude towards society.

Thus it is that Watchman re-introduces readers to many of Lee’s most famous characters, including Atticus Finch, although readers may find the Atticus of this novel somewhat removed from the “younger” man found within Mockingbird.

Wednesday July 22nd: 19:00: Holiday Times

Kayden Oconnell & Caledonia Skytower share short stories of holiday trips and seaside romances from Lucy Maud Montgomery and Stephen Leacock.

Thursday July 23rd

18:45: Prologue: Anthropomorphism

With Shandon Loring.

19:00: Pigsong by Frank Delaney

PigsongHe has been described as “the most eloquent man in the world”. In a career spanning three decades, BBC host and Booker Prize Judge Frank Delaney has interviewed more the 3,500 of the world’s most important writers. He’s also an author in his own right, earning top prizes and best-seller status in a wide variety of formats.

His latest project is collectively called The Storytellers, and presents a series of short stories that follow the tradition of the seanchai: providing a crisp, concise tales of the world, and which also include his own notes on the history and craft of storytelling and the creation of myths.

Shandon Loring continues a journey through The Storytellers, this week reading from Pigsong, introduced thus:

Once upon a time and long ago, when snow tasted like cream, and timber tasted like sweet cake, and every tenth egg laid by a duck had a diamond in it, there lived up in the North of Ireland a very bad man.

21:00: Seanchai Late Night

With Finn Zeddmore

Saturday July 25th, 12:00 Noon Seanchai Inworldz: Celtic Poets & Storytellers

Shandon and Caledonia bring us The Poet’s Curse and The Storyteller at Fault.

Seanchain 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 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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