Space Sunday: hearing Mars, looking at Bennu and roving the Moon

One of InSight’s 2.2 metre (7-ft) wide solar panels was imaged by the lander’s Instrument Deployment Camera fixed to the elbow of its robotic arm. Credit: NASA/JPL

It’s always a remarkable time when a new mission arrives on or around another planet in our solar system, so forgive me if I once again kick-off a Space Sunday with NASA’s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander, which touched down on Mars just 10 days ago.

Over the course of the last several days, NASA has been putting the lander’s 1.8 metre (6 ft) long robot arm through its paces in readiness for operations to commence. The arm has multiple functions to perform, the most important of which is to place two major science experiments on the surface of Mars. The arm is also home to one of the two camera systems on the Lander.

InSight’s deck partially imaged be the IDC on the lander’s robot arm. Credit: NASA/JPL; annotations: Inara Pey

Very similar to the Navcam systems used by both Opportunity and Curiosity, the camera is called the Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC). It is mounted above the arm’s “elbow” and has a 45-degree field of view. As well as offering a first-hand view of everything the robot arm is doing, IDC can provide colour, panoramic views of the terrain surrounding the landing site.

The arm hasn’t as yet been fully deployed, but in being put through its paces, it has allowed the IDC to obtain some tantalising views of both the lander and its surroundings.

Left: a view of the ground scoop on the robot arm, again seen with the grapple stowed. Note this image was captured with the protective dust cover still in place over the camera lens. Right: a view of InSight’s deck. The copper-coloured hexagonal object is the protective cover for the seismometer, and the grey dome behind it is the wind and thermal shield which will be placed over the seismometer after its deployed. The black cylinder on the left is the heat probe, which will drill up to 5 metres into the Martian surface. Image: NASA/JPL

Some powering-up of science systems has also occurred, notably Auxiliary Payload Sensor Systems (APSS) suite. The air pressure sensors immediately started recording changes in air pressure across the lander’s deck indicative of a wind passing over InSight at around 5 to 7 metres a second (10-15mph). However, the biggest surprise can from the seismometer designed to listen to the interior of Mars.

As this was tested, it started recording a low-frequency vibration in time with the wind recordings from APSS. These proved to be the wind blowing over the twin 2.2-metre circular solar panels, moving their segments slightly, causing the vibrations, which created a sound at the very edge of human hearing. NASA later issued recordings of the sounds, some of which were adjusted in frequency to allow humans to more naturally “hear” the Martian wind.

The InSight lander acts like a giant ear. The solar panels on the lander’s sides respond to pressure fluctuations of the wind. It’s like InSight is cupping its ears and hearing the Mars wind beating on it.

– Tom Pike, InSight science team member, Imperial College London

Once on the surface of Mars and beneath its protective dome, the seismometer will no longer be able to hear the wind – but it will hear the sound of whatever might be happening deep within Mars. So this is likely to be the first of many remarkable results from this mission.

To Touch an Asteroid

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx (standing for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security – Regolith Explorer), launched in September 2016, has arrived at its science destination, the near-Earth asteroid Bennu, after a journey of two billion kilometres.  It will soon start a detailed survey of the asteroid that will last around  year.

Bennu as seen by OSIRIS-REx. Credit: NASA

Bennu, which is approximately 492 m (1,614 ft) in diameter, is classified as a near-Earth object (NEO), meaning it occupies an orbit around the Sun that periodically crosses the orbit of Earth. Current orbital predictions suggest it might collide with Earth towards the end of the 22nd Century.

To this end, OSIRIS-REx will analyse the thermal absorption and emissions of the asteroid and how they affect its orbit. This data should help scientists to more accurately calculate where and when Bennu’s orbit will intersect Earth’s, and thus determine the likelihood of any collision. It could also be used to better predict the orbits of other near-Earth asteroids.

Bennu is primarily comprised of carbonaceous material, a key element in organic molecules necessary for life, as well as being representative of matter from before the formation of Earth. Organic molecules, such as amino acids, have previously been found in meteorite and comet samples, indicating that some ingredients necessary for life can be naturally synthesized in outer space. So, by gaining samples of Bennu for analysis, we could answer many questions on how life may have arisen in our solar system – and OSIRIS-REx will attempt to do just that.

Towards the end of the primary mission, OSIRIS-REx will be instructed to slowly close on a pre-selected location on the asteroid, allowing a “touch and go” sampling arm make contact with the surface for around 5 seconds. During that moment, a burst of nitrogen gas will be fired, hopefully dislodging dust and rock fragments, which can be caught by the sampling mechanism. Up to three such sample “hops” will be made in the hope that OSIRIS-REx will gather between 60 and 2000 grams (2–70 ounces) of material. Then, as its departure window opens in March 2021, OSIRIS-REx will attempt a 30-month voyage back to Earth to deliver the samples for study here.

Continue reading “Space Sunday: hearing Mars, looking at Bennu and roving the Moon”

Bay City 2018 tree lighting fund-raiser in Second Life

Bay City Tree Lighting

Christmas is a time for giving, and on Sunday, December 9th, 2018, Bay City will be hosting their annual Christmas Tree Lighting and fund-raiser.

Activities will commence at 13:00 SLT and run through until 16:00 SLT, taking place at the Bay City fairgrounds. On offer will be:

  • Live entertainment, music and dancing.
  • A skating party.
  • refreshments and fun.

Music will be provided by DJ GoSpeed Racer and live performers Melinda M. Baptiste and Erika Ordinary.

The event will be to raise money for Child’s Play Charity, a 501c3 non-profit organisation offering on-line communities such as the Bay City Alliance an opportunity to help seriously ill children around the globe during their hospital stays with the purchase of games and gaming equipment.

Bay City Tree Lighting

About Bay City and the Bay City Alliance

Bay City is a mainland community, developed by Linden Lab™ and home to the Bay City Alliance. The Bay City Alliance was founded in 2008 to promote the Bay City regions of Second Life and provide a venue for Bay City Residents and other interested parties to socialize and network. It is now the largest Bay city group, and home to most Residents of Bay City. To find out more, contact Marianne McCann in-world.

Bay City and the Bay City Alliance and Child’s Play

Bay City and the Bay City Alliance have a long history of fund-raising for Child’s Play, and in 2016, they received special recognition by the charity, being awarded Silver Level sponsor on the Child’s Play’s website.

Tales of Dickens, Holmes and Christmas

Seanchai Library

It’s time to highlight another week of storytelling in Voice by the staff and volunteers at the Seanchai Library. As always, all times SLT, and events are held at the Library’s home at Holly Kai Park, unless otherwise indicated.

Sunday, December 9th

13:00: Tea-Time with Dickens

Selections from David CopperfieldGreat ExpectationsNicholas Nickleby, and Oliver Twist, live in Dickens Square.

The Dickens Project

1430: The Dickens Project

Music and Dancing live in  Dickens Square, with Elrik Merlin.

Monday, December 10th 19:00: A Child’s Christmas In Wales

The timeless classic story of Dylan Thomas’s childhood Christmas memories, and other and other holiday favourites read by Aoife Lorefield.

Tuesday December 11th

12:00 Noon: The Dickens Project

Music, poems, and stories with Russell Eponym in Dickens Square.

19:00: The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle

Caledonia Skytower returns to Baker Street for the story of The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle, which first appeared in The Strand Magazine in January 1892.

The Illustrated Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle

One December, Watson arrives at 221B Baker Street to offer Holmes season’s greetings and best wishes, only to find the Great Detective earnestly studying a battered hat. Holmes explains it had been delivered by commissionaire Peterson, who had witnessed a scuffle between some men, all of whom had run off, one of them dropping the hat and a Christmas goose in the process. Happy to let Peterson keep the goose, Holmes had found the hat to be of great interest, and by the time Watson arrives, had formed a quite clear set of deductions concern its owner, which he then proceeds to relate to the good Doctor.

Their conversation is interrupted by the return of Peterson, who presents Holmes with The Blue Carbuncle, a priceless jewel stolen from the hotel suite of the Countess of Morcar a few days previously. Peterson explains he found the jewel inside the goose. Having been quick on the case at the time of the theft, the police had already arrested known felon John Horner, who had previously been seen in the Countess’ suite cleaning the fireplace, and charge him with the theft. But Horner had from the start protested his innocence, and the police had been unable to locate the jewel, leading them to believe it is in the possession of an accomplice.

So could it be that the man who dropped the goose and hat was Horner’s mysterious accomplice, or is something else going on? And why hide the jewel in a goose? For Holmes and Watson, the game is once again, very much afoot!

Wednesday, December 12th

13:00: The Dickens Project

Music and Dancing live in Dickens Square, with Ktadhn Vesuvino.

19:00: Competing with Time

An original tale read by Ktadhn Vesuvino.

Thursday, December 13th

19:00 The Santa Clause

Shandon Loring one more hitches a ride on a sleigh drawn by a team of rangifer tarandus to bring us the second part of The Santa Clause, a “novelisation” of the Leo Benvenuti / Steve Rudnick screenplay from the 1994 film starring Tim Allen.

Also presented in Kitely (hop://grid.kitely.com:8002/Seanchai/144/129/29).

21:00 Seanchai Late Night

With Finn Zeddmore.

Saturday, December 15th 19:00 noon: The Dickens Project

Idle Rogue Productions at Dickens Square.

 


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