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.
Gyro Muggin’s reads an extract from Mercedes Lackey’s The Wizard of London, the 4th volume in the Elemental Masters series.
Set in a Victorian London where magic is real and Elemental Masters control the powers of Fire, Water, Air, and Earth, the novel follows Lord Alderscroft, Master of the British Elemental Masters Council-the most powerful Fire Master ever to lead the Council. Loosely based on The Snow Queen, The Wizard of London delves into Lord Alderscroft’s youth, when he was bespelled by an evil Elemental Master who hoped to use him for political gain.
In Grey, Sarah Jane is sent from her home in Africa to school in London because her parents felt it would be better for her health. But given the conditions in London, however, she might have been safer in the African jungle.
A group design led by Elise Sirnah with LeviCord and Shadeng Krokus, Mimmo is a Homestead region “designed for those interested in photography”. It’s a location we’ve visited a couple of times, although this is the first time I’ve written about it here.
The design of the region has changed between those initial visits and its appearance as seen here. Whether this is a sign it is renewed at regular intervals or not is hard to say: there are now a couple of rental properties within the region that may limit future terraforming efforts (at least in part) if they are retained.
At the time this most recent visit, the region presented a summertime setting with a temperature / tropical feel and a very defined north-south lay to the land. To the north, the land is raised into high hills and a curtain wall of cliffs, beneath which the landing point sits on a broad shelf of rock that is also home to a photographic gallery and information about the region.
This shelf offers a view out over the rest of the region as it drops away to the south, cut in two by a stream flowing south and east from falls that drop to a pool below the north-side cliffs. The stream forms a neat divide between the inland grasslands and the south coast beach.
Both parts of the landscape include numerous points of interest, with the inland area laid out in a way that suggests it is all part of the same property, marked by a Tuscan villa / farmhouse to the east, the ground flowing to the west past a fenced meadow that is home to grazing sheep and goats, to arrive at a small summer house matching the general style of the villa as it looks out over the sea to the the south-west and one of the two rental properties, sitting on a small island.
Reached via two bridges – one of which is little more than felled tree trunks – the beach offers space for music, sitting, music and an open-sided bar to be enjoyed by all.
The above barely scratches the surface of the region’s offerings. Within the circle of ancient stone walls sit an ageing piano, which although old, might still be enjoyed by those seeking a set for photography, the rose-entwined harp alongside it offering a suitable backdrop. Another ruin that sits alongside the fast-flowing stream, offers another set for photography, partially lit by a portable movie lamp.
In keeping with the region’s photographic theme, a camp cabin towards the north-east and just below the land point rock shelf is set for photo-processing, with the suggestion of reporters being somewhere in the region: a video camera and an interviewer’s microphone are sitting on the worktables alongside the photo developing kit. Beyond it, and tucked into the north-east corner of the region under the lee of the hills, is the second of the two rental properties, iron gates marking the edge of the parcel.
Those seeking a cosy corner in the region might want to direct themselves to the east side behind the villa, where creative use has been made of two sections from the f8f Storyteller’s Burrow to create two sheltered sitting spots linked by a small cobblestone patio, sitting above a narrow ribbon of sandy shale beach.
There is still more to be found within the region, but the above should be enough to whet appetites. Finished with a matching sound scape, the region has a natural flow to its design and layout, and while there are some odd rough edges to the build, Mimmo in no way fails to deliver on the promise of offering a photogenic location.
The constellation of Orion is one of the most familiar in the night skies. It is marked by a number of notable features, containing as it does three of the brighter stars in our night sky: Rigel: the 6th brightest star visible from Earth, and serving as Orion’s left foot; Betelgeuse, the 10th brightest, and serving as Orion’s right shoulder (so diagonally opposite Rigel); Bellatrix, the 26th brightest star in our sky, and sits at Orion’s left shoulder; and three galaxies – the Orion Nebula, the Messier 43 nebula, the Running Man Nebula – all of which can be found in Orion’s “sword”.
Orion – or more particularly – Betelgeuse – has been occupying a lot of the astronomy-related news cycles of late, with speculation that we might be witnessing the star’s potential move towards a cataclysmic supernova event.
Before I get down to the nitty-gritty of why Betelgeuse has astronomers all a-twitter (quite literally, given the amount of Twitter chat on the subject), some details about the star. Classified a M1-2 red supergiant, Betelgeuse has a very distinctive orange-red colouration that can again be seen with the naked eye. However, it’s exact size is hard to determine, because it is both a semiregular variable star, meaning the brightens and dims on a semi-regular basis as it physically pulses in size, and because it is surrounded by a light emitting circumstellar envelope composed of matter it has ejected.
This means calculations over the years have given many different estimates of the star’s size, suggesting it is roughly 2.7 to 8.9 AU in diameter (1 AU = the average distance between the Earth and the Sun). This means that were the centre of Betelgeuse to be placed at the exact centre of the Sun, then its “surface” would be at least out amidst the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, or lie somewhere between Jupiter and Saturn!
That Betelgeuse is pulsating and has a cloud of material around it, also makes it difficult to pin down its precise distance from us. However, the most recent estimates suggest it is most likely around 643 light years from Earth, with a possible variation of around +/- 146 light years.
Red giant stars are of a type that have a comparatively short life, averaging 10-20 million years, depending on how fast they spin (compared to our Sun’s anticipated 9-10 billion years lifespan), with Betelgeuse thought to have a fast spin and an estimated age of about 8.5 million years, putting it close to its end of life, which tends to be a violent affair with stars of this size.
This is because these stars burn through their reserves of fuel at a high speed, although a temperature lower than typically found with Sun-type stars. Eventually, they reach a point where the temperatures generated by the nuclear process is insufficient to overcome the huge gravity created by their size, and they suddenly and violently collapse, compressing to a point where the pressure is so great, they explode outwards even more violently, tearing away most of their mass in an expanding cloud of hot gas called a nebula, leaving behind a tiny, dense core – or even a black hole.
However, while this final collapse and explosion takes place suddenly, the period leading up to it can be marked by observable changes in a star – and this is the reason for the excitement around Betelgeuse.
Over the last 20+ years Betelgeuse’s radius has shrunk by 15%. While this has not massively altered the star’s brightness over that time, it is still an astonishing amount of mass to lose over so short a period. More recently, however, there has been a further change in the star that has caused excitement: since mid-October 2019, Betelgeuse has gone through a stunning drop in its apparent magnitude – or brightness as seen from Earth’s location – dropping from being the 10th brightest object in our night sky to around the 27th, bringing with it a complete change in Orion’s appearance in our skies.
This sudden drop in brightness has been seen by some as a possible indicator that Betelgeuse may have gone supernova, and we’re now waiting for the light of the actual explosion to reach us. Such has been the interest, reference has been made to monitoring neutrino detectors for the first signs of an explosion. This is because whereas photons have to escape a star’s collapse, neutrinos don’t, and so will reach us ahead of any visible light; so a sudden increase in the number of them detected coming from the region of the sky occupied by Betelgeuse could be indicative of it having exploded.