Tonarino: an oriental curio in Second Life

Tonarino, December 2019 – click any image for full size

Shawn dropped a landmark for Tonarino, a Full region with a distinctly Japanese look and feel. A group design, the region is split into five major parts – not all of which are open to the public. To the south is a square block of a flat island, topped by scrub grass and what appears to be a café, while off to the west are three more fairly regularly shaped islands in a north-to-south line.

The majority of the region, however is given over to a large landmass the rises from east to west, and is home to a small semi-urban setting that sits at the end of a single line of railway track. A wooden bridge connects the little town with southern islands, and on crossing it, I found no evidence that the island and it’s café are not open to the public.

Tonarino, December 2019

However, given that the westward islands are separated from the main landmass both physically and by the fact the lay of the land largely hides them from view, they would seem to be collectively for private use. Certainly, the middle of the three islands – and the only one that offers a landing point for those making use of the pedal boats available from the western shore of the town –  is restricted to Group access only. Given that the north and south islands either side of it are only connected to it and are without any obvious at which to come ashore for those using the pedal boats, there is the suggestion that they are also private. Either way, I opted not to risk trespass.

The eastern side of the main landmass offers a mix of buildings from cement blockhouses with shops on the lower floor to little apartments on the floor above to stores and eateries modelled along more “traditional” lines all split into little groups by a small grid of roads and by the railway line. Sitting among them is space to grow vegetables an fruit although part of this ground is apparently lying fallow under the snow. To the west, between the hills, the ubiquitous school blockhouse that is often found within regions with a modern Japanese theme, squats as it overlooks the pedal boat moorings mentioned above.

Tonarino, December 2019

The railway line terminates with a station that’s little more than a waiting room with a bus stop neighbouring. On the other side of the track the land that is being cleared for building. A stream tumbles from the hill to the south-west to run parallel with the train line as it emerges from a tunnel under the hill before it eventually turns inland to cross the stream via a trestle bridge. Stone steps also climb the hill to overlook the waterfall and to provide access to a small cemetery.

To the north-east another craggy hill rises, stone steps cut into its face. It is home to the solid presence of an old temple sitting within a small garden, a little refreshment stand lurking just outside the gardens for those feeling hungry after a climb up the steps or a time of prayer in the temple. A (large) step down from this on an out-thrust shoulder of rock is an traditional Japanese walled house. Reached via separate steps, this appears to be linked to the spaces for growing fruit and vegetables, suggesting they may be owned or managed by whoever lives within the house.

Tonarino, December 2019

Looking careworn and a little tired under its light covering of snow, the setting at Tonarino has a very lived-in feel that offers scope for photographers looking for backdrops for avatar studies or who enjoy landscapes that feature buildings and urban / suburban settings. Places to sit may be few and parts of the region off-limits to most, but these don’t detract from any appreciation of the Tonarino.

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The Dickens Project 2019: Carol Week in Second Life

The Dickens Project 2019: the Museum of Dickens Projects Past, the Dickens Library and the Listening Room

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 this week’s events are all held at The Dickens Project, where Monday through Friday form Carol Week, in which the entire tale of A Christmas Carol is told over successive days at times suitable for most audiences.. What’s more, this year presents a special additional presentation of two parts of the tale featuring a very special guest!

Sunday, December 15th

  • 11:30 – Wald Schridde, Live from Dickens Square:  Wald plays a selection of folks songs and music from the British Isles that could have been familiar to those in Dickens’ time.
  • 13:00 – Tea-time with Charles Dickens in Dickens Square: VT Torvalar, Da5id Abbot, and Caledonia Skytower present selections from Little Dorrit, Oliver Twist and the short story The Poor Relation.
  • 14:00-16:00 Fantasy Faire Radio Presents Rock from Dickens Square: DJ Elrik Merlin spins classic rock-n-roll from both sides of the Atlantic.

Carol Week, December 16th-20th

  • Monday, December 16th – Stave One: Marley’s Ghost:
    • 14:00: VT Torvalar, Da5id Abbot, and Caledonia Skytower.
    • 19:00: Aoife Lorefield, Corwyn Allen, and Kayden Oconnell.
  • Tuesday, December 17th –Stave Two – The First of Three Spirits:
    • 14:00: Dubhna Rhiadra, Corwyn Allen, and Faerie Maven-Pralou.
    • 19:00: Corwyn Allen, Gloriana Maertens, and Caledonia Skytower.
  • Wednesday, December 18th: Stave Three – The Second of Three Spirits:

    • 14:00: Aoife Lorefield, Da5id Abbot, and Dubhna Rhiadra.
    • 19:00: Kayden Oconnell, Gloriana Maertens, and Caledonia Skytower.
  • Thursday, December 19th: Staves Four & Five – The Last of the Spirits & The End of It:

    • 14:00: Aoife Lorefield, Da5id Abbot, and Dubhna Rhiadra.
    • 15:00: Kayden Oconnell, Gloriana Maertens, and Caledonia Skytower.
  • Friday, December 20th: Special Encore  of The Last of the Spirits & The End of It:
    • 12:45: the WOOTMAS cheer of the Raglan Shire Carollers.
    • 13:00: Aoife Lorefield, Caledonia Skytower, and special guest Patch Linden.
    • 18:30: Misfit Dance & Performance Arts SL present A Very Misfit Christmas.

Saturday, December 21st

  • 10:00: The Community Virtual Library hosts a Resource Centre tour for The Science Circle.
  • 11:00: Misfit Dance & Performance Arts SL present A Very Misfit Christmas.
  • 13:45: The WOOTMAS cheer of the Raglan Shire Carollers at the Opera House.
  • 14:00-16:00: Fezziwig’s Ball at the Opera House with DJ Dano Bookmite.

Sunday, December 22nd

  • 11:00: Wald Schridde Live at The Dickens Project.
  • 12:00-15:30 – THE BIG READ – all five staves of A Christmas Carol in a single sitting!

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

Space Sunday: tiny stars & giant planets, and an interstellar visitor

An artist’s impression of the Neptune-sized world orbiting white dwarf WDJ0914+1914,. While the star is “dead” it is still hot enough for its solar wind to be slowly ripping away the planet’s outer atmosphere, most of which is lost to space, while some of it swirls into a disc, itself accreting onto the white dwarf, further heating it. Credit: ESO / M. Kornmesser

When a star like our own reaches the end of its life, two things happen: first, in a desperate attempt to keep itself burning after using its hydrogen and helium, it expands outwards into a red giant as it burns heavier elements in turn (our Sun will expand to a size sufficient to consume Mercury, Venus and Earth) before it collapses into a hot, white dwarf, a fraction of its former size (perhaps no bigger than the Earth).

But what of any gas giants orbiting the star well beyond the limits of its red giant expansion? What happens to them following the star’s collapse to a white dwarf? Do they simply continue until such time as their own internal heating fails? Might they have some additional interaction with their former parent?

A team from Warwick University, England, appear to have the answer. They’ve discovered a Neptune-sized planet some 4 times larger than its white dwarf host star, and the two have entered into what is – at this point in our understanding of such situations – a unique relationship.

The star is called WDJ0914+1914 and is some 2,000 light years away. Whilst reviewing data on it gathered by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), the astronomers came across something odd: the star was apparently giving off oxygen, sulphur and hydrogen emissions. While the oxygen was to be expected – by this time in a star’s life most of what is left is actually oxygen and carbon – the hydrogen and sulphur simply shouldn’t have been there.

Turning to the Very Large Telescope (VLT), the Warwick team found the emissions corresponded to to a ring of gas surrounding the star. At first they thought they had discovered a binary system in which the mass of one star was being drawn off by the other, forming a dust ring around both. However, further analysis revealed the composition of the disc matches the deeper layers of planets in our own Solar System like Neptune and Uranus, suggesting a planetary body still exists orbiting the star and material from that planet is feeding the disc, allowing it to survive.

While fusion has long since ended at WDJ0914+1914, the star is still radiating at some 28,000ºC – enough energy to tear material from the upper layers of a planet’s atmosphere. Much of this atmosphere would trail outwards from the planet as a hot plume – which the Warwick team detected – while some would collapse to feed the disc of material surrounding the star.

Putting their calculations together, the Warwick team worked out that the planet – which cannot be directly sighted – is likely to be around the size of Neptune, and it is losing its atmosphere at a rate of around 2,700 tonnes per second to both to the disc of material around the star, and eventually onto the star itself – “feeding” it, if you will. Although this sounds a lot, it actually adds up to a relative small amount given the size of the planet, and so the loss is unlikely to alter its overall structure as the star continues to cool.

This discovery at WDJ0914+1914 is unique at the moment – but it makes the case that other white dwarf stars may also be survived by planets, some of which we may be able to detect using the transiting method of observation (WDJ0914+1914 is simply too dim for this to work). Certainly, the Warwick team’s research has opened the door on this form of research, one that could help with our understanding of exoplanet atmospheres.  It also offers a cold look at the far future (roughly 4.5 to 5 billion years from now) of our own solar system.

New Dates For Commercial Crew Test Flights

NASA has issued new dates for the final test flights for the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Boeing CST-100 Starliner that, if passed, should allow both vehicles to move on towards actually transporting astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

On December 20th, 2019, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V will launch the first CST-100 Starliner into orbit on an uncrewed orbital test flight (OTF) to the International Space Station. As well as testing the Starliner’s avionics and flight systems, the flight will also test a new docking system that is intended to become the “”standard docking system for sending humans to Gateway and to Mars” as a part of the Artemis programme, and used to deliver additional supplies and some Christmas / New Year’s extras to the ISS crew.

The first Boeing CST-100 vehicle being transported from Boeing’s fabrication centre at Kennedy Space Centre on its way to the Space Launch Complex 41 Vertical Integration Facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in readiness for its flight, November 21st, 2019. Credit: Boeing

Also flying on the vehicle will be a flight test dummy christened “Rosie the Rocketeer”, named for “Rosie the Riveter”, the iconic role model for U.S. women working in factories and on production lines in WW II. The dummy is fitted with an array of sensors to measure critical data including G-forces endured during the flight to inform the team about the stresses a human crew will experience during an ascent to orbit on the vehicle. Results from this data, and all telemetry gathered during the flight will help inform NASA and Boeing on the Starliner’s readiness to commence crewed flights.

The vehicle will not spend long at the ISS – it will be undocked on December 28th and make a return to Earth in a full dress-rehearsal for a crewed landing for the CST-100 capsule. Should weather interfere with the planned launch, both December 21st and 23rd offer suitable windows for the launch to take place.

The first Boeing CST-100 mounted atop its United Launch Alliance Atlas V booster at Space Launch Complex 41, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, December 4th, 2019. Credit: Boeing

Then, on January 4th, 2020, SpaceX is expected to complete an in-flight abort test. For that test, a Falcon 9 will lift off from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Centre carrying a test Crew Dragon vehicle – which has previously performed  a successful static fire test of its SuperDraco escape motors in November. Around 90 seconds into the flight, and the time of maximum dynamic pressure on the vehicle, the escape system will be triggered, the capsule hopefully escaping the rocket to make a safe splash-down under parachute.

SpaceX had hoped to complete this test before the end of the year, but assorted delays – including that of the CRS-19 resupply mission, which launched earlier in December (see: On the ISS – mighty mice and robots) – meant that target could not be met. If the abort flight test is successful, it should allow NASA and SpaceX to determine when crewed flights to the ISS can commence – an uncrewed test flight of the vehicle to the ISS having been completed in March 2019.

Overall. NASA would like both Boeing and SpaceX to complete their first crewed flights to the ISS – also regarded as test flights – by mid-2020.

Continue reading “Space Sunday: tiny stars & giant planets, and an interstellar visitor”