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 viewer version 184.108.40.2065962, dated August 10, promoted August 10, formerly the Tools Update 2 RC viewer – NEW.
Release channel cohorts:
Arrack Maintenance RC viewer updated to version 220.127.116.116539 on August 11th..
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, unless otherwise indicated. Note that the schedule below may be subject to change during the week, please refer to the Seanchai Library website for the latest information through the week.
Monday, August 17th, 19:00: Voyage to the City of the Dead
Gyro Muggins reads the 11th volume in Alan Dean Foster’s Humanx Commonwealth series, first published in 1984.
The Humanx Commonwealth is an interstellar ethical/political entity spanning multiple star systems and worlds. One of the more unique of these worlds is Horseye, the home of three alien cultures and renowned throughout the Commonwealth for having the most spectacular river valley anywhere in the known galaxy.
It is both the cultures and the river that has drawn scientists Eitienne and Lyra Redowl to Horseye. Now, after months spent in quarantine, they embark on a voyage to the source of the 12,000 long River Skar, and study it and the peoples living on its banks.
Veterans of exploration and discovery, the Redowls believe they are ready to face anything. But how can you prepare for things like treachery, lies and greed? For a local legend would have it that at the source of the Skar lie a great treasure – and the locals who appear to be willing to help the Redowls in fact plan on finding it for themselves.
Assuming, that is, the treasure is in fact something at can be regarded as offering wealth or power…
Tuesday, August 18th:
12:00 Noon: Russell Eponym, Live in the Glen
Music, poetry, and stories in a popular weekly session at Ceiluradh Glen.
19:00: A Fireside Evening with Bear
Bear Silvershade shares stories from Katherine Govier’s The Immaculate Conception Photography Gallery and other short tales.
Published in 1996, The Immacualet Conception Photography Gallery is an eclectic collection of short stories that blur the boundaries between seemingly disparate worlds, highlighting the human desire to rationalize life experiences. Within it are tales of how two cottagers mistake the brilliance of a search party’s flares for an alien invasion, and a photographer who can rewrite the past to suit the present by altering his client’s photographs.
Wednesday, August 19th, 19:00: Touch History
It’s the season for memorable journeys. Kt shares one of his own involving a motorcycle, history, geology, and highway engineering.
Thursday, August 20th, 1900: The Weekender
Shandon Loring continues in noir vein with Jeffrey Deaver’s tale of an an attempted drug store robbery that goes horribly wrong. Following one patron’s murder, Jack Prescot kidnaps a man and drags him to a vacant summer home. There Jack learns the true meaning of faith and patience.
Also in Kitely – take the teleport from the main Seanchai World grid.kitely.com:8002:SEANCHAI.
Seanchai Library is Moving!
After three years at Holly Kai, Seanchai Library is moving to pastures new (and larger!). The last sessions at Holly Kai Park will be on Thursday, September 3rd. I’ll have a full update on their new location on or just after that date.
Eterea is a homestead region designed by Coqueta Georgia that again offers visitors a sense of tranquillity and release, coupled with a certain sense of magic and a gorgeous sprinkling of artistic expression.
A Homestead region, Eterea may initially present itself to new arrivals as just another island garden; but looks can be deceiving, particularly first looks. The landing point sits on a north facing cliff, looking out over a shallow bay, the shoulder of the island rising behind it, steps offering a way up through arched trees to where a dodecagon greenhouse awaits.
Glass-sided and domed, and with a grand columned entrance, this greenhouse is delightfully furnished. Tall bookcases stand sentinel on two sides, wheeled steps placed for the convenience of those wishing to browse, two cosy arrangements of easy chairs, sofas and low tables at their feet. A gramophone and an old bakeite telephone give a sense of age to the setting, while a harp, grand piano and harpsichord vie for the attention of the musically inclined.
Bric-a-brac throughout gives this setting a decidedly cosy feeling, and its not hard to imagine it as a centre of conversation and companionship with a slight Bohemian edge, the drapes slung from the high dome helping to cool it during the day, and the light of the high chandeliers and other lamps spilling out through the wall walls in invitation to others to come join with the music and conversation by night.
The greenhouse offers the first clues to the artistic nature of the region as well as it sense of magic. A finely-crafted boat floats over the grand piano, suspended beneath a pair of translucent balloons, whilst paintings lie stacked in corners or behind bookcases and some of the chandeliers also float serenely beneath the glass dome without any physical connection. It is here that some of the motifs found throughout the rest of the region may first be evidenced: the religious in the form of a swing with angel’s wings, together with a reproduction of the Netherlandish (Antwerp Mannerist) triptych The Last Supper (circa 1515-1520); the fantastical (the aforementioned floating boat), and the artistic.
Outside, this grand pavilion is surrounded by a garden of wild flowers and shrubs, whilst shaded patios offer more places to sit (including playable table-top games), while the island drops away from this high vantage point to curve west and north to its far headland. A long dogleg of stone steps runs down to the rest of the island, and from the top of the steps, it is possible to spot another of the island’s mystical elements as a great blue whale (somewhat popular among region designers) swims through the air, slowly circling an upland area just shy of that far headland, a smaller garden on its back.
The path running along the spine of the island leads the way past several areas where explorers can sit and appreciate the setting, together with multiple opportunities for photography within the little vignettes that have been carefully, but naturally set out along and just off the route. One of these, an octagonal greenhouse, sits as both a cosy retreat – cats allowing! – and a place from which to observe the local owls. Onward, the path passes under the circling Whale (mouse over it and sit if you wish to join the ride), passing above a small beach cupped in the island’s arms as it does so. before descending to where an old and damaged wooden pier extends out into the shallow waters that cover the bulk of the region.
It is on and over this water that the magical and artistic elements of Coqueta’s design flow together, fusing into a captivating scene. Small islands are spotted over the water, three little more that rocky plinths for statues, one as ribbon-like sandbank, and the largest the home to a fresh-water pool. Further out, aged board walks raise and fall above the waves, suggesting a path to be followed, a twin line of telegraph poles pointing the way to them.
Here, caught in rising sea mist is a fabulous mix of floating boats under balloons – larger versions of the one in the greenhouse -, chairs backed by angel wings floating flower lanterns and coloured umbrellas. Three spiral stairways of stone rise to coloured doors. ladders and strings of chairs alongside them offering opportunities for poses. Beyond the green door a wooden board walk spirals stairway-like up to the heavens, crowned by a chair that again sprouts angelic wings and has a halo floating above it.
Words don’t do justice to this northern element of Eterea, offering as it does such an expressive mix, it needs to be seen to be appreciated, whilst the region as a whole is marvellously presented and rich in detail, with multiple opportunities for photography.
Dream Chaser Cargo is an uncrewed version of Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) Dream Chaser space plane, and it is drawing closer to commencing operations ferrying supplies and experiments to and from the International Space Station (ISS), with operations due to start in mid-to-late 2021.
The world’s only non-capsule private orbital spacecraft, Dream Chaser Cargo is designed to be launched atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V booster, and land like a conventional aircraft. Once operational, it will be capable of lifting some 900 kg of material within its cargo space, and a further 4,500 kg in a detachable and disposable module called Shooting Star that attaches to the rear of the space plane and includes a docking system for linking to the ISS, as well as supplying electrical power to the Dream Chaser.
Shooting Star can carry cargo both inside it, and in an external unpressurised unit. In addition, it can be used to hold some 3,500 kg of waste from the ISS, the module being jettisoned to burn-up in Earth’s atmosphere prior to Dream Chaser Cargo (which can also carry experiments back to Earth) making an atmospheric re-entry towards the end of a mission.
Now the first Dream Chaser vehicle has its wings and a name: Tenacity. The wings were delivered to SNC’s fabrication facility in spring 2020, and with work now cautiously resuming, the wings – sans their outer skins – will be mounted on the vehicle’s air frame. During flight, the wings are folded against the fuselage so they can be contained within the payload fairings that protect the vehicle and its module during launch. After the fairings are jettisoned, the wings swing into their “flight” position so they can give Dream Chaser Cargo aerodynamic lift once back in Earth’s atmosphere.
Capable of fully automated flight, Dream Chaser Cargo has a significant advantage over the other ISS resupply vehicles capable of returning material to Earth – Dragon and Progress – in that it uses relatively “safe” fuels. This means ground crews can access the vehicle without having to wait for extensive safety checks to be completed, allowing delicate or time-sensitive cargo to be removed from the vehicle more quickly.
Betelgeuse’s Dimming: Explained But Still Mysterious
The orange giant Betelgeuse caused excitement in late 2019 / early 2020 when it went through a period of unprecedented dimming, even for a star as variable as it can at times be, its apparent magnitude (brightness as seen from Earth) reducing by a factor of 2.5 (or roughly 25-30%).
At the time, the dimming sparked speculation the star may have gone supernova, and we might be about to see the light of that event – it having taken some 700 years to reach us. Most astronomers doubted this was the case, and were confident the star would return to its more natural brightness, as indeed it did 2020 (see: Space Sunday: an exoplanet, a star and an asteroid).
Now, examinations of observations made by the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) in late 2019 suggest the star’s dimming was most likely caused by the ejection and cooling of dense hot gases. What’s more, additional observations suggest Betelgeuse may be going through another dimming period out-of sync with its usual cycles.
Between October and November 2019, HST observed dense, heated material moving outward through Betelgeuse’s extended atmosphere at 320,000 km/h, and it was following these observations that the more dramatic dimming of the star was seen from Earth, notably around the star’s southern hemisphere. It’s now believed that jet stream of hot gas reached a point millions of kilometres from the star and rapidly cooled to form a cloud of dust between the star and Earth-based observers, giving rise to the star’s apparent dimming.
However, study of the HST data revealed something surprising: the stream of ejected gas did not originate at the star’s rotational poles, as current stellar models would suggest. Rather, the Hubble data indicates that Betelgeuse can drive off material from any part of its surface. The data also revealed that during the event, the star lost a considerable amount of mass – around twice the “normal” amount it loses in a given period, just from its southern hemisphere. This in itself makes what happened to Betelgeuse unique: nothing like it has been previously seen in 150 years of observations.
Whether or not this means we’re seeing a new stage in Betelgeuse’s life cycle is unclear, but the mystery doesn’t end there. This is because data gathered by NASA’s Sun-orbiting Solar TErrestrial RElations (STEREO) satellite appear to suggest the star is again dimming, and outside of its more cycles. Until now, Betelgeuse has had two cycles of dimming and brightening. The first runs for around 25 years, the other runs through 425 days. Both coincided during the 2019/2020 dimming, contributing it. Thus for the star to be dimming now puts it well inside the 425 day cycle. Exactly what all this means isn’t exactly clear, but it has sparked considerable interest and observers will continue to monitor it through the rest of the year.
The last week saw the 2020 Perseids meteor shower reached its peak as the Earth passes through debris left by the comet Swift-Tuttle. As is usual, the event resulted in many outstanding photos, including the one below.
The next flight of the SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle has been announced. Crew-1, the first “operational” flight will now targeted for October 23rd, 2020, when it well carry NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Oliver and Mike Hopkins, together with JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi as the nucleus of the Expedition 64 crew.
Originally scheduled for a late September / early October launch, the mission has been pushed back to allow additional time for the Russian Soyuz MS-17 mission to launch and rendezvous with the ISS.
After its 150m “hop”, Starship prototype SN5 has been rolled back for inspection and re-fit – possibly with the lengthened landing legs I mentioned in me previous space Sunday update. In the meantime, it appears that the next vehicle to make a test flight will be Starship prototype SN6. A further prototype, dubbed SN7.1, and comprising just a single fuel tank that uses new alloy end caps, is being prepared for a deliberate over-pressurisation test. This test vehicle has been dubbed SN7.1 in recognition of the SN7 tank section that was also tested to destruction earlier in the year.
However, most attention has turned towards prototype SN8, as it has been confirmed this will be the first of the prototype to be fitted with the upper section, nose cone and aerodynamic “wing” surfaces, and so will likely be used for the 20-km flight tests.
Whilst still 7 months from Mars, NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter drone, a part of the Mars 2020 mission and stowed under the Perseverance rover, had its batteries charged up to 35% capacity on August 7th, one week after launch. The 8 hour trickle-charge operation marked the first time the helicopter’s batteries have been charged in the space environment, allowing the vehicle to be powered-up.
The action was taken so that mission managers could check-out the drone’s electrical systems following launch and allow it to report on its overall status. The battery level will be maintained at the 35% charge level throughout the cruise phase, with routine re-charges, in order to allow the helicopter’s electronics to be warmed by a regular flow of electrical power.
On July 4, NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) finished its primary mission, imaging about 75% of the starry sky as part of a two-year-long survey. In capturing this giant mosaic, TESS has found 66 new exoplanets, or worlds beyond our solar system, as well as nearly 2,100 candidates astronomers are working to confirm.
During the first year of operations, TESS observed the southern sky, while in the second year, it turned its attention to the northern skies. Allowing the way, the mission team has been able to introduce numerous improvements. Among other things, these now allow the satellite to capture a high-resolution image of the stars around us once every 10 minutes, three times faster than at the start of the mission, while it can now measure the comparative brightness of thousands of stares every 20 seconds, rather than every two minutes. These latter captures will more readily reveal changes in brightness that might be the result of a star “wobbling” in its spin due to the presence of planetary bodies (although TESS’s primary means of locating possible exoplanets is via the transit method) or the results of outbursts like coronal mass ejections (CMEs).
With the completion of its primary mission, TESS is into an extended mission, the first phase of which will run through until September 2020.
Virgin Galactic’s Supersonic Ambitions
As if flying tourists into space wasn’t enough, Virgin Galactic has announced it has entered into an agreement with Rolls Royce to build a new supersonic airliner aimed at the “premium” flight market.
The new aircraft – as yet unnamed – will, the company claim, fly some 50% faster than the Anglo-French Concorde, with a cruising speed of Mach 3 – allowing a crossing of the Atlantic in around 2 hours. If realised, the aircraft will cruise at an altitude of 18 km (60,000 ft) and will be capable of carrying up to 19 passengers.
Yes, that’s right. 19. The aircraft is intended to capture a modest percentage of the premium (business and first class) air travel market, with Virgin Galactic CEO Sir Richard Branson stating the company only need to capture 5% of that market to turn a profit. Currently, the aircraft has completed a “mission concept” review study involving Virgin Galactic, Rolls Royce (building of the engines that powered Concorde), aviation experts and NASA.
No details on when the aircraft might fly have been given, with the craft’s overall shape, size, dimensions, etc., yet to move out of conceptual drawings.