This summary is published every Monday, and is a list of SL viewer / client releases (official and TPV) made during the previous week. When reading it, please note:
It is based on my Current Viewer Releases Page, a list of all Second Life viewers and clients that are in popular use (and of which I am aware), and which are recognised as adhering to the TPV Policy. This page includes comprehensive links to download pages, blog notes, release notes, etc., as well as links to any / all reviews of specific viewers / clients made within this blog
By its nature, this summary presented here will always be in arrears, please refer to the Current Viewer Release Page for more up-to-date information.
Official LL Viewers
Current Release version: 188.8.131.523027, dated January 25, promoted February 3 – formerly a Maintenance RC viewer download page, release notes – no change.
The Architect’s Playground is a full region installation by Methias Kira under the brand name of Abstract Soul. If you love colour, scripted effects and particles, it is liable to be an installation you’ll want to see.
Against the backdrop of a setting sun, visitors arrive on a platform 260 metres in the air. A golden figure pirouettes slowly. Everywhere are intricate traces of light brightening, fading, pulsing, from single strands to fields of spheres to delicate towers alive with a steady flow of light upwards, and great tubes which similarly ebb and flow with colour.
Within this kaleidoscope world, a paths of ever forming and fading golden ribbons beckons visitors outward from the landing point to offer than a choice or routes upwards or downwards, their paths marked by clouds of colours spheres floating and pulsing serenely.
Whichever route you take will lead you past particles displays to platforms with more swirls and lines gently changing light. Some of these platforms feature more of the golden (and silver) figures (by Gwen Ferox and Nacht Fox) in various poses; others simply offer scintillating, almost hypnotic patterns.
Travel down low enough, and you may come to a platform where a white star pattern forms and fades, forms and fades; step into the centre and you’ll drop even lower, to islands of light formed from concentric circles sitting just above the water. And even these are not the end of things: dive under water, and there is more to be found.
The Architect’s Playground, can be a little hard on the GPU the longer you spend within it (I’d recommend disabling shadows if you run with them on, to ease some of the load), but it is nevertheless an engaging visit, the intricate design having both an abstract and an organic feel to it. The installation will remain open until the end of June.
I recently wrote a space update special on the TRAPPIST-1 star system with its seven roughly Earth-sized planets. Since then, there has been speculation about whether any of them might support life, and what conditions for life might be like.
Whether life may have arisen on any of the worlds is tough question to answer. Three of the seven lie within the “habitable zone” where liquid water might exist (TRAPPIST-1e, -1f and -1g) – which is a positive for life as we know it. But for that liquid water to remain liquid, the planets must have an atmosphere. Currently, only TRAPPIST-1b and -1c have, through spectral analysis, been shown to harbour atmospheres, but these seem to be limited in scope, and could range from a water vapour rich atmosphere through to an environment similar to that of Venus.
On the negative side of the equation, the nature of their parent star, a super cool red dwarf with all internal action entirely convective in nature, means that all seven planets are likely subject to sufficient irradiation in the X-ray and extreme ultraviolet wavelengths to significantly alter their atmospheres, potentially rendering them unsuitable for life. Further, all seven are tidally locked, meaning they always keep the same face towards their parent star. This will inevitably give rise to extreme conditions, with one side of each world bathed in perpetual daylight and the other in perpetual, freezing darkness, resulting in extreme atmospheric movements and likely harsh weather.
Daylight on the planets would also be very different. Although one side of these worlds be forever in daytime, and despite the relative proximity with which they orbit their parent star, days on their surfaces would never be much brighter than sunset here on Earth, both in terms of colour and light intensity. This is because most of the light emitted by TRAPPIST-1 is radiated in the infra-red wavelengths, rather than visible wavelengths.
One the more positive side of the equation, despite the low levels of visible light, TRAPPIST-1 could still be able to sufficiently warm an atmospheres the planets might have, and the weather conditions might actually dissipate this warmth evenly over the planet’s surface, perhaps making it more hospitable to life.
It’s also likely the planets experience a lot of tidal flexing as they come under the influence of one another as well as their parent star. This flexing might give rise to hydrothermal and volcanic vents, which in turn could provide the necessary heat (energy), minerals and chemicals necessary to kick-start basic life.
Studies of the TRAPPIST system will continue using the Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes and via ground-based observatories. However, as mentioned in my special report, it is likely to be the James Webb Space Telescope which will hopefully reveal many of the secrets of the TRAPPIST-1 system.
That said, and for those still wondering about intelligent life arising on any of these worlds, SETI, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence has been “listening in” on the star for indications of radio traffic for some time (pre-dating the discovery of the first two planets in the system in 2016). Those surveys haven’t revealed any kind of radio emissions from the system that might be of artificial origin, but now we know there are seven planets, SETI has marked TRAPPIST-1 for further investigations with their Allen Telescope Array (ATA).
A Further Clue in the Hunt for Planet 9
Last year, Caltech astronomers Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin found indirect evidence for the existence of a large planet in the outer reaches of our Solar System well beyond Pluto; since then, the search has been on. I first covered the hunt in January 2016, and followed it with updates in February 2016 and October 2016, and it now seems a new clue to the planet’s existence may have been revealed.
Astronomers using the Gran Telescopio CANARIAS (GTC) in the Canary Islands looked at two distant asteroids, called Extreme Trans Neptunian Objects (ETNOs). Spectroscopic observations 2004 VN112 and 2013 RF98 suggest that the two were once a binary asteroid pairing that were pulled apart as a result of the influence of a mass massive body between 10 and 20 Earth masses in size and about 300 to 600 AU from the Sun. As a result of this, the two bodies drew further and further apart over, time they became more and more separated to become how we see them today.
“The similar spectral gradients observed for the pair 2004 VN112 – 2013 RF98 suggests a common physical origin,” said Julia de León, an astrophysicist at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC). “We are proposing the possibility that they were previously a binary asteroid which became unbound during an encounter with a more massive object.”
de León and his team carried out thousands of computer-based simulations to see how this might have happened, and found the most consistent result suggested the bodies were separated as a result of a close passage by a massive planetary object around 5-10 million years ago.
What is particularly interesting here is that the location of the two asteroids, coupled with the suggested mass of the body which pulled them apart and the distance it is believed to have been from the Sun, also fit the broader parameters for where the orbit of Planet 9 might reside, and the estimated mass of the planet. Thus, when combined with the eccentric orbits of several Kuiper Belt Objects believed to have been perturbed in their orbits around the Sun by planet 9, it gives further credence to the idea it really is out there, somewhere.
When – and if – it might eventually be found is open to question. However, it is hoped that a recently started “citizen scientist project will encourage amateur astronomers around the world to join in the hunt for Planet 9.