This summary is generally 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.
Note that for purposes of length, TPV test viewers, preview / beta viewers / nightly builds are generally not recorded in these summaries.
Official LL Viewers
Current Release version version 126.96.36.1990188, dated April 15th, promoted April 20th. Formerly the EEP RC viewer – No Change.
From the high mountains around Auxentios’ Pass, we at length descended to warmer lands. For the first part of our journey down from that strange, steam-powered town nestled in its high pass, we were led by one of the clanking, hissing machines that so startled and amazed us on first seeing them.
Driven by man sitting in a closet-like space below the rounded belly of the mechanical beast, the machine walked with a clumsy, yet sure-footed grace in response to the levers he pulled and pushed. A second man seated before him in that iron closet used the long funnel extending before it to blast our path with steam that cleared away the frost and ice, allowing us safe passage over the smooth rock that might otherwise have been as treacherous as glass beneath feet and hooves.
Even after the machine had stood aside to let us continue down warmer slopes towards the tree line below, it was hard not to keep looking back up the hard rock path to try to catch sight of our strange companion, even though we all knew we had left it behind and the echoing sound of its heavy footfalls echoed down to us as it made its way back up to its home in the snows.
As the day passed, so we came to the green lands beneath the mountains, and to the gardens of Lunafae. Here, built around a natural grass basin, the fae folk had established a home. We arrived as the Sun passed behind the mountains and the Moon slowly rose to the east. As it did so, life began to stir among the oval and round houses that ringed the basin, translucent orbs hung from arches and sitting upon stone pedestals lighting the paths and gardens within the circle of houses with the captured moonlight, while fireflies danced over the round of water that sat at the lowest heart of the basin.
So too came the sound of voices, as strong and fair as any among the elves – and also small and sweet as children at play; bright, happy laughter that I could not trace until tall, silvan folk stepped forth in greeting, more fireflies dancing around them. As they approached, so I realised that the “fireflies” were tiny faefolk, no taller than the length of my arm from finger-tip to elbow. They held tiny lanterns – and they floated upon the air! As they darted and danced around us, I perceived delicate wings on their backs that whispered gently as those of a humming bird.
Dismounting, we watched as our horses were gently led away to be fed and watered, while we were each taken by the hand by fae folk our own height, their long-fingered hands pale in our own, the air around them sweet with the fragrance of spring flowers. Together, we descended to the pavilion rising from the round of water. Eight runs of stone steps offered a way down the basin’s slopes, but only four connected to the pavilion by arched bridges over the water. The remaining four caught the light of lanterns and the Moon in silvered splashes as water tumbled from step to step in each, replenishing the waters of the basin.
Within the pavilion, we passed the night with food and drink, talking with our hosts as their tiny cousins danced and played on silvered wings, voices bright and clear. I cannot remember when I fell asleep, but I awoke on a green lawn sitting between stone steps and tumbling water. Two of my company slept beside me, and as I sat up and looked around, I saw more of my companions lying on other lawns across the steps and waters. Broad leaves carrying breads and fruit were set out on tables for us, but of our tall hosts, naught could be seen wherever I looked.
Laughter, high and sweet, caused me to turn my head and four of the tiny folk danced lightly above the waters falling down to the circular lake. “You will not find them!” A voice sang as they danced. “For they do not like the sun; night and the light our Lady Luna is more to their liking and desires. They will remain indoors until she rises again. But we are here, and we will dance! Will you not stay with us? The citadel lays not far, and we will show you the way, but not before you share Luna’s blessing once more with us!”
Sweetly given, and with laughter and music around is, we could not refuse such an invitation.
Lunafae by Sharni Azalee, sponsored by The Looking Glass, ~Jeanette’s Joint~*, Realm of Rosehaven*, The Lost Unicorn Gallery*. Featuring stores by Air, *Amaranthus*, Boudoir, *CINNAMON*, Cole’s Corner, *~Dream Things~*, :[Even~Tide]:, Fae Fantasy Creations, GUARAN-DOU, Kittycat’s Creations, Roawenwood, **Tir Na Nog**, Titans, Swank & Co., and The Olde Attic & My View.
Total raised by the end of the Faire’s eleventh day: L$13,311,225 (US $53,244). Remember, you can still visit the Fairelands and appreciate their realms through until May 10th.
China is readying for the next phases of its space ambitions.
In July, the country is due to launch its first mission to Mars. Officially referred to as the Mars Global Remote Sensing Orbiter and Small Rover mission, it comprises an orbiter, a lander vehicle and a small rover, with the orbiter and rover between them carrying the majority of the mission’s 18 scientific instruments.
The priorities for the mission include finding evidence of current or previous microbial life, and evaluating the planet’s surface and environment. In addition, solo and joint explorations of Mars, the orbiter and rover will produce maps of the Martian surface topography, and obtain data on soil characteristics, material composition, water ice, atmospheric composition, ionosphere field intensity, and other scientific data.
On April 24th, the Chinese announced the lander vehicle is to be called Tianwen, or “Quest for Heavenly Truth.” It will use a landing system comprising a parachute, retrorockets, and an airbag to achieve a soft landing. The rover will be solar powered, as with China’s Yutu family of lunar rovers.
The name represents the Chinese people’s relentless pursuit of truth, the country’s cultural inheritance of its understanding of nature and universe, as well as the unending explorations in science and technology.
– China’s National Space Administration (CNSA) statement
The Chinese tend to be fairly close-lipped about their space missions (among many other things), but from what has been announced, the mission is being built along similar lines to both NASA surface missions like InSight and MSL, and Europe’s ExoMars orbiter / lander missions. Following its arrival in Mars orbit in February 2021, the combined orbiter / lander will remain there for an unspecified period while the intended landing site is confirmed.
Once on the surface, the 200 gram 6-wheeled rover is expected to operate for at least 3 months, with a selection of its science systems comprising Ground-Penetrating Radar (GPR), to image about 100 m below the Martian surface, a magnetic field detector, a Mars meteorological instrument and multiple camera instruments. The rover is expected to be given its own name in due course.
At the same time, China rolled out a Long March 5B launcher in preparation for a mission to prove space station launch capabilities and to test a new spacecraft for deep space human space flight. It is expected to lift-off on, or around, May 5th 2020, carrying the first of China’s new generation of crew-capable vehicles designed to supersede the Soyuz-derived Shenzhou craft.
The new craft resembles an Apollo command and service module (CSM) combination, comprising a conical capsule vehicle protected by an atmospheric entry heat shield, and a cylindrical service module that provides the primary source of power and propulsion when operating in space. For the first flight, it will carry around 10 tonnes of fuel, intended to allow the vehicle to offer a similar mass to the core stage of the upcoming Chinese space station. The fuel will also allow the vehicle to reach a high orbit and and achieve a fast re-entry velocity.
This latter is important as the the new vehicle is intended for deep space crewed missions, including acting as the carrier for crews engaged in future missions to the Moon. Such missions will – like America’s Orion coming back from the Moon – return to Earth as a higher velocity than an orbital craft. As such, the first flight of this new Chinese vehicle will be somewhat similar in nature to the Orion’s first uncrewed flight in 2018.
To achieve its full envelope of uses, the new crew vehicle comes in two variants: a capsule and small service module which together weigh 14 tonnes, to be used in local orbital flights, and a version with a larger service module, giving a mass of 20 tonnes for the combined craft. This will likely be used for missions into deeper space. Either craft be able to carry up to six astronauts, or three astronauts and 500 kg of cargo to low Earth orbit.
Overall, the May launch of the vehicle has a lot hinging on it. A successful flight will clear the way for the two-month-long launch campaign required for the Mars Global Remote Sensing Orbiter and Small Rover mission mentioned above, using a Long March 5. In will also be see as opening the way for the Long March 5B vehicle to undergo a series of launches ahead of placing the 20-tonne Tianhe module, intended to be the core element of China’s new space station, due in early 2021. Weighing 20 tonnes, the module’s launch will mark the first in about a dozen that will be needed to complete the station between 2021 and 2022 /23.
When is an Exoplanet Not and Exoplanet?
As I’ve frequently remarked in these pages, we’ve so far confirmed the presence of over 4,000 exoplanets orbiting other stars. The number is such that it’s easy to think that detecting these worlds is just a matter of observing and waiting for that regular tell-tale dipping of brightness in a starts luminosity as seen from our orbiting telescopes, and which has been the more common means of detecting the worlds around other stars.
However, finding and confirming the presence of exoplanets is a complicated process, one that can be ripe with false positives. An example of this is Fomalhaut b, which has been puzzling astronomers since it was first observed in 2004. Orbiting the A-type main-sequence star Fomalhaut, some 25 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Piscis Austrinus, the planet was first observed by the Hubble Space Telescope, marking as the first to be detected in visible wavelengths (that is. the Direct Imaging Method).