Space Sunday: solar studies and rocket tests

An artist’s impression of ESA Solar Orbiter over the Sun. Credit: ESA

At 04:03 UTC  on Monday, February 10th (23:03 EDT, USA), the European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter is due to be launched atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Referred to as SolO, the mission is intended to perform detailed measurements of the inner heliosphere and nascent solar wind, and perform close observations of the polar regions of the Sun, which is difficult to do from Earth, in order to gain a much deeper understanding of the processes at work within and around the Sun that create the heliosphere and which give rise to space weather.

The launch will mark the start of a three 3-year journey that will use a fly-by of Earth and three of Venus to use their gravities to help shift the satellite into a polar orbit around the Sun. Once there, and at an average distance of some 41.6 million km, SolO will move at the same speed at which the Sun’s atmosphere rotates, allowing it to study specific regions of the solar atmosphere beyond the reach of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe and Earth observatories for long periods of time.

ESA’s Solar Orbiter, built by Airbus UK within its clean room assembly area. The large flat panel to the left is the craft’s Sun shield. Credit: ESA

Our understanding of space weather, its origin on the Sun, and its progression and threat to Earth, comes with critical gaps; the hope is by studying the the polar regions of the Sun’s heliosphere, scientists hope they can fill in some of these gaps. The outflow of this plasma interacts with the Earth’s magnetic field and can have a range of potential effects, including overloading transformers and causing power cuts, disrupting communications and can potentially damage satellites. Further, the disruption of the Earth’s magnetic fields can affect the ability of whales and some species of bird to navigate.

We don’t fully understand how space weather originates on the sun. In fact, events on the sun are very hard to predict right now, though they are observable after the fact. We can’t predict them with the accuracy that we really need. We hope that the connections that we’ll be making with Solar Orbiter will lay more of the groundwork needed to build a system that is able to predict space weather accurately.

– Jim Raines, an associate research scientist in climate and
space sciences engineering

Specific questions scientists hope SolO will help answer include:

  • How and where do the solar wind plasma and magnetic field originate in the corona?
  • How do solar transients drive heliospheric variability?
  • How do solar eruptions produce energetic particle radiation that fills the heliosphere?
  • How does the solar dynamo work and drive connections between the Sun and the heliosphere?

To do this, the satellite is equipped with a suite of 10 instruments, some of which will be used to track active solar regions that might explode into a coronal mass ejections (CMEs), a major driver of space weather. When a CME occurs, SolO will be able to track it and use other instruments to be able to break down the composition of the energetic outflow (and that of the outflowing solar wind in general).

Knowing the composition of this outflow should help determine where energy is being deposited and fed into the solar wind from eruptions on the Sun, and how particles are accelerated in the heliosphere – the bubble of space where the Sun is the dominant influence, protecting us from galactic cosmic radiation.

The Solar Orbiter mission. Credit: ESA

Combined with the work of the Parker Solar Probe, launched in August 2018 (see: Space Sunday: to touch the face of the Sun) and which gathers data from within the Sun’s corona, and observations from Earth-based observatories such as the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST), Solar Orbiter’s data should dramatically increase our understanding of the processes at work within and around the Sun.

Like the Parker Solar Probe, SolO will operate so close to the Sun it requires special protection – in this case a solar shield that will face temperatures averaging 5,000º C on one side, while keeping the vehicle and its equipment a cool 50º C less than a metre away on the other side. This shield is a complex “sandwich” starting with a Sun-facing series of titanium foil layers designed to reflect as much heat away from the craft as possible. Closest to the vehicle is a aluminium “radiator” that is designed to regulate the heat generated by the craft and its instruments. Between the two is a 25-cm gap containing a series of titanium “stars” connecting them into a single whole. This gap creates a heat convection flow, with the heat absorbed by the titanium layers venting through it, drawing the heat from the radiator with it, allowing Solar Orbiter to both expect excess solar heating and present itself from overheating.

SolO’s primary mission is due to last 7 years, and those wishing to see the launch can watch it livestreamed across a number of platforms, including You Tube.

Continue reading “Space Sunday: solar studies and rocket tests”

Visiting Garrigua in Second Life

Garrigua, February 2020 – click any image for full size

Garrigua is a relatively new Full private region leveraging the full region land capacity bonus to present both an environment open to exploration and to offer a limited number of private rentals.

The region is apparently intended to offer a slice of southern France, although many of the houses found within it have something of a Tuscan lean – but are not out-of-place in doing so. Designed by Terry Fotherington, famous for the Kekeland / Bar Deco settings, the region offers something of an echo of one of his Keleland iterations along its north and south waterfronts – which also is not to say it is any way a copy of that build; the similarity being gained through the bright colours of the south side buildings and the harbour areas they overlook, and the north side off-shore mooring with their sail boats.

Garrigua, February 2020

The landing point is on a south-side road that cuts canyon through the aforementioned town houses and places of business, some of which separate the street from the beach and waterfront. Some of these building form a courtyard around a square garden, with the seaward side buildings of the courtyard sitting atop the region’s sea wall, and home to a bar and café that offer a view out to sea and the harbour to the west.

A place of business, the harbour offers fuelling and repairs for small boats and is home to a small marine research unit. It is overlooked to the west by a small headland camp site.

Garrigua, February 2020

The north side of of the region appears to be where the rental properties are located – three on the waterfront to the east, separated from the sea by a ribbon of wave-eroded land that might form a beach at low tide, while the fourth sits offshore as a walled villa, complete with its own landing for boats. Between the waterfront houses and villa sits a wooden pier with shallow water moorings for sailing boats watched over by one of the region’s three lighthouses.

A dirt track runs east to west across these north side lowlands to connect with a paved road that links to the southern aspects of the setting and the inland uplands and north side of the island. Rising from behind the three rental houses, ir separates them from a privately-held farm on its other side. Another farm sits to the west, but appears to be open to the public, the meadow around the two farm houses rich in lavender.

Garrigua, February 2020

As is always the case with Terry’s designs, there is a huge amount packed into this region: there are numerous places to sit and pass the time; cars and scooters and bike sit along the streets, giving a sense of the comings and goings of life; the way the roads all lead to a tunnel that emerges from the central uplands, suggesting the region is connected to somewhere else beyond the far end of the tunnel.

A stream also tumbles from these central uplands, running westwards to meet the sea, partially dissecting the region with rocky rapids. Other natural touches include the sheep wandering across the road, bringing local traffic to a temporary halt; donkeys stand in a field watching the comings and goings along the farm track whilst geese no doubt tease them with occasion honks as they wander by, unhampered by the fences that hold the Donkeys in place.

Garrigua, February 2020

There is a subtle sense of age to the region as well: the local bus stop is little more than a corrugated tin shell, its paint slowly losing the battle with rust and held up by a wooden frame, while the carcasses of rusting vehicles can be found peppered across parts of the region, some turned into cuddle spaces, others left to turn to dust. Most striking of all is the old villa sitting towards the centre of the region.

Aged, plaster falling from the walls, the villa is dominated by a tree within its courtyard that has been left to its own devices for so long, it is starting to push against the walls. The rooms are similarly losing their battle with nature, with even a sapling taking root to push its way up through the floor ad seek the Sun by forcing its way through boards that once blocked a window before succumbing to death, leaving bare branches grasping outwards. All of which makes for a perfect location for photography.

Garrigua, February 2020

Given the volume of mesh and textures in the region, movement around it can be subject to performance issues, particularly if there is a reasonable number of avatars present – so be prepared to make adjustments to your viewer settings if you find things a little heavy going.  However, the region makes for a picturesque, photogenic visit.

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Nile trips, silent planets and secret gardens in Second Life

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, February 9th

13:30: Tea-Time Special: Death on the Nile

First published in 1937, Death on he Nile is one of Agatha Christie’s most famous and enduring Hercule Poirot murder mysteries. The book has been the subject of multiple theatrical, film and television adaptations, most of which had by necessity condensed elements of this tale of love, jealously, and betrayal to more readily fit the requirements of their format.

Over the next five weeks, Seanchai Library presents the opportunity to enjoy the story in full – and within a setting inspired by the novel, as Corwyn Allen, Da5id Abbot, Kayden Oconnell, Gloriana Maertens, and Caledonia Skytower bring Christie’s characters once more to life for us to enjoy.

The Karnak – Death on the Nile

So, why not join Poirot as he cruises aboard the river steamer Karnak in a trip along the Nile – although a tour of the sights is unlikely to be high on his priorities given the state of affairs between socialite Linnet Doyle, her new husband Simon Doyle and his embittered former fiancée (and Linnet’s long-time friend) Jacqueline de Bellefort, together with a host of other interesting travelling companions; particularly when they start to turn up dead.

18:30: The Secret Garden

Caledonia Skytower continues this classic of children’s literature  by Frances Hodgson Burnett, first published in 1911, at the Golden Horseshoe in Magicland Park.

Orphaned after losing her parents in a cholera epidemic, young Mary Lennox returns to England from India, entering the care of her uncle Archibald Craven, whom she has never met.

Up until this point, Mary’s childhood had not been happy; her parents were selfish and self-seeking, regarding her as a burden over which they were not obliged to hold much responsibility. Not overly healthy herself, she is as a result  a temperamental, stubborn and unmistakably rude child – and her arrival at Misselthwaite Manor and the relative gloom of Yorkshire’s weather does little to improve her mein.

Her disposition also isn’t helped by her uncle, who is strict and uncompromising, leading to Mary despising him. But her uncle’s story is itself filled with tragedy, particularly the loss of his wife. As she learns more about her uncle’s past, so Mary learns about a walled garden Mrs. Craven once kept, separated from the rest of the grounds and which, since her passing has been kept locked by Mary’s uncle, the door leading to it kept locked, the key to it buried somewhere. 

Finding the missing key and the now hidden door, Mary enters the garden, and her passage into it starts her on a journey of friendship and discovery, one that leads her to the thing she never really knew: family.

Monday, February 10th 19:00: Out of the Silent Planet

The first novel in C.S. Lewis’s classic sci-fi trilogy which tells the adventure of Dr Ransom who is kidnapped and transported to Mars

In the first novel of C.S. Lewis’s classic science fiction trilogy, Dr Ransom, a Cambridge academic, is abducted and taken on a spaceship to the red planet of Malacandra, which he knows as Mars. His captors are plotting to plunder the planet’s treasures and plan to offer Ransom as a sacrifice to the creatures who live there. Ransom discovers he has come from the ‘silent planet’ – Earth – whose tragic story is known throughout the universe…

Join Gyro Muggins for more.

Tuesday, February 11th 19:00 More from the Liaden Universe: The House

With Ktadhn Vesuvino

Wednesday, February 12th, 19:00:The Starless Sea

Caledonia Skytower reads selections from Erin Morgenstern’s novel.

Deep beneath the surface of the Earth and upon the shores of the Starless Sea, lies a network of tunnels and rooms filled with stories and tales. The ways into this secret place are many, but hidden, and perhaps set for just one individual to find. They exist where least expected: on the floors of forests, behind doors inside private homes or around alleyway corners or within mountain caves – almost anywhere in which they cannot be anticipated.

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is searching for his door, though he does not know it. He follows a silent siren song, an inexplicable knowledge that he is meant for another place.

When he discovers a mysterious book in the stacks of his campus library he begins to read, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, lost cities, and nameless acolytes. Suddenly a turn of the page brings Zachary to a story from his own childhood impossibly written in this book that is older than he is…

Thursday, February 13th

19:00 A Pocketful of Crows

I sent his letter back again,
Saying his love I valued not,
Whether that he would fancy me,
Whether that he would not.

The bonny brown girl, lives in the forest, unnamed, untamed. Her people, the “travelling folk”, have no need of towns, or houses, or linens. Nor of each other, save at occasional seasonal gatherings. The Brown Girl lives in the wild, inhabits the wild creatures when she wants to hunt in the forest, or soar through the sky.

Then one spring day, the day before May Day, she meets William, a young royal, and quickly falls in love. Though she denies being in love, and swears to remain wild, William insists on giving her a name, Malmuira, the Dark Lady of the Mountains.

“Thus are you named, my brown girl. Thus do you belong to me.”

Join Shandon Loring as he continues this tale of love, loss and revenge. Following the seasons, A Pocketful of Crows balances youth and age, wisdom and passion and draws on nature and folklore to weave a stunning modern mythology around a nameless wild girl. Also in Kitely – grid.kitely.com:8002:SEANCHAI).

21:00 Seanchai Late Night

Contemporary Sci-Fi-Fantasy with Finn Zeddmore featuring stories from sources including Escape Pod, Light Speed, and Clarkesworld on-line magazines.

Friday, February 14th, 15:00: Seanchai Library at One Billion Rising in SL

Aoife Lorefield, Dubhna Rhiadra, Willow Moonlight, and Caledonia Skytower share an hour of stories and poems in support of this movements annual global statement to end violence against women. (SLURL available in posts and notices on the day of the event).

Saturday, February 15th, 15:00: Seanchai Library at Lanagan Parj with Love in Words and Music

Ktadhn Vesuvino and Caledonia Skytower reprise their creative exploration of love in its many iterations through poetry and songs – it’s not all hearts and flowers!  Some new selections added this year. Live on stream.