Space Sunday: hearing Mars, looking at Bennu and roving the Moon

One of InSight’s 2.2 metre (7-ft) wide solar panels was imaged by the lander’s Instrument Deployment Camera fixed to the elbow of its robotic arm. Credit: NASA/JPL

It’s always a remarkable time when a new mission arrives on or around another planet in our solar system, so forgive me if I once again kick-off a Space Sunday with NASA’s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander, which touched down on Mars just 10 days ago.

Over the course of the last several days, NASA has been putting the lander’s 1.8 metre (6 ft) long robot arm through its paces in readiness for operations to commence. The arm has multiple functions to perform, the most important of which is to place two major science experiments on the surface of Mars. The arm is also home to one of the two camera systems on the Lander.

InSight’s deck partially imaged be the IDC on the lander’s robot arm. Credit: NASA/JPL; annotations: Inara Pey

Very similar to the Navcam systems used by both Opportunity and Curiosity, the camera is called the Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC). It is mounted above the arm’s “elbow” and has a 45-degree field of view. As well as offering a first-hand view of everything the robot arm is doing, IDC can provide colour, panoramic views of the terrain surrounding the landing site.

The arm hasn’t as yet been fully deployed, but in being put through its paces, it has allowed the IDC to obtain some tantalising views of both the lander and its surroundings.

Left: a view of the ground scoop on the robot arm, again seen with the grapple stowed. Note this image was captured with the protective dust cover still in place over the camera lens. Right: a view of InSight’s deck. The copper-coloured hexagonal object is the protective cover for the seismometer, and the grey dome behind it is the wind and thermal shield which will be placed over the seismometer after its deployed. The black cylinder on the left is the heat probe, which will drill up to 5 metres into the Martian surface. Image: NASA/JPL

Some powering-up of science systems has also occurred, notably Auxiliary Payload Sensor Systems (APSS) suite. The air pressure sensors immediately started recording changes in air pressure across the lander’s deck indicative of a wind passing over InSight at around 5 to 7 metres a second (10-15mph). However, the biggest surprise can from the seismometer designed to listen to the interior of Mars.

As this was tested, it started recording a low-frequency vibration in time with the wind recordings from APSS. These proved to be the wind blowing over the twin 2.2-metre circular solar panels, moving their segments slightly, causing the vibrations, which created a sound at the very edge of human hearing. NASA later issued recordings of the sounds, some of which were adjusted in frequency to allow humans to more naturally “hear” the Martian wind.

The InSight lander acts like a giant ear. The solar panels on the lander’s sides respond to pressure fluctuations of the wind. It’s like InSight is cupping its ears and hearing the Mars wind beating on it.

– Tom Pike, InSight science team member, Imperial College London

Once on the surface of Mars and beneath its protective dome, the seismometer will no longer be able to hear the wind – but it will hear the sound of whatever might be happening deep within Mars. So this is likely to be the first of many remarkable results from this mission.

To Touch an Asteroid

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx (standing for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security – Regolith Explorer), launched in September 2016, has arrived at its science destination, the near-Earth asteroid Bennu, after a journey of two billion kilometres.  It will soon start a detailed survey of the asteroid that will last around  year.

Bennu as seen by OSIRIS-REx. Credit: NASA

Bennu, which is approximately 492 m (1,614 ft) in diameter, is classified as a near-Earth object (NEO), meaning it occupies an orbit around the Sun that periodically crosses the orbit of Earth. Current orbital predictions suggest it might collide with Earth towards the end of the 22nd Century.

To this end, OSIRIS-REx will analyse the thermal absorption and emissions of the asteroid and how they affect its orbit. This data should help scientists to more accurately calculate where and when Bennu’s orbit will intersect Earth’s, and thus determine the likelihood of any collision. It could also be used to better predict the orbits of other near-Earth asteroids.

Bennu is primarily comprised of carbonaceous material, a key element in organic molecules necessary for life, as well as being representative of matter from before the formation of Earth. Organic molecules, such as amino acids, have previously been found in meteorite and comet samples, indicating that some ingredients necessary for life can be naturally synthesized in outer space. So, by gaining samples of Bennu for analysis, we could answer many questions on how life may have arisen in our solar system – and OSIRIS-REx will attempt to do just that.

Towards the end of the primary mission, OSIRIS-REx will be instructed to slowly close on a pre-selected location on the asteroid, allowing a “touch and go” sampling arm make contact with the surface for around 5 seconds. During that moment, a burst of nitrogen gas will be fired, hopefully dislodging dust and rock fragments, which can be caught by the sampling mechanism. Up to three such sample “hops” will be made in the hope that OSIRIS-REx will gather between 60 and 2000 grams (2–70 ounces) of material. Then, as its departure window opens in March 2021, OSIRIS-REx will attempt a 30-month voyage back to Earth to deliver the samples for study here.

Continue reading “Space Sunday: hearing Mars, looking at Bennu and roving the Moon”


Bay City 2018 tree lighting fund-raiser in Second Life

Bay City Tree Lighting

Christmas is a time for giving, and on Sunday, December 9th, 2018, Bay City will be hosting their annual Christmas Tree Lighting and fund-raiser.

Activities will commence at 13:00 SLT and run through until 16:00 SLT, taking place at the Bay City fairgrounds. On offer will be:

  • Live entertainment, music and dancing.
  • A skating party.
  • refreshments and fun.

Music will be provided by DJ GoSpeed Racer and live performers Melinda M. Baptiste and Erika Ordinary.

The event will be to raise money for Child’s Play Charity, a 501c3 non-profit organisation offering on-line communities such as the Bay City Alliance an opportunity to help seriously ill children around the globe during their hospital stays with the purchase of games and gaming equipment.

Bay City Tree Lighting

About Bay City and the Bay City Alliance

Bay City is a mainland community, developed by Linden Lab™ and home to the Bay City Alliance. The Bay City Alliance was founded in 2008 to promote the Bay City regions of Second Life and provide a venue for Bay City Residents and other interested parties to socialize and network. It is now the largest Bay city group, and home to most Residents of Bay City. To find out more, contact Marianne McCann in-world.

Bay City and the Bay City Alliance and Child’s Play

Bay City and the Bay City Alliance have a long history of fund-raising for Child’s Play, and in 2016, they received special recognition by the charity, being awarded Silver Level sponsor on the Child’s Play’s website.

Tales of Dickens, Holmes and Christmas

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, December 9th

13:00: Tea-Time with Dickens

Selections from David CopperfieldGreat ExpectationsNicholas Nickleby, and Oliver Twist, live in Dickens Square.

The Dickens Project

1430: The Dickens Project

Music and Dancing live in  Dickens Square, with Elrik Merlin.

Monday, December 10th 19:00: A Child’s Christmas In Wales

The timeless classic story of Dylan Thomas’s childhood Christmas memories, and other and other holiday favourites read by Aoife Lorefield.

Tuesday December 11th

12:00 Noon: The Dickens Project

Music, poems, and stories with Russell Eponym in Dickens Square.

19:00: The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle

Caledonia Skytower returns to Baker Street for the story of The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle, which first appeared in The Strand Magazine in January 1892.

The Illustrated Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle

One December, Watson arrives at 221B Baker Street to offer Holmes season’s greetings and best wishes, only to find the Great Detective earnestly studying a battered hat. Holmes explains it had been delivered by commissionaire Peterson, who had witnessed a scuffle between some men, all of whom had run off, one of them dropping the hat and a Christmas goose in the process. Happy to let Peterson keep the goose, Holmes had found the hat to be of great interest, and by the time Watson arrives, had formed a quite clear set of deductions concern its owner, which he then proceeds to relate to the good Doctor.

Their conversation is interrupted by the return of Peterson, who presents Holmes with The Blue Carbuncle, a priceless jewel stolen from the hotel suite of the Countess of Morcar a few days previously. Peterson explains he found the jewel inside the goose. Having been quick on the case at the time of the theft, the police had already arrested known felon John Horner, who had previously been seen in the Countess’ suite cleaning the fireplace, and charge him with the theft. But Horner had from the start protested his innocence, and the police had been unable to locate the jewel, leading them to believe it is in the possession of an accomplice.

So could it be that the man who dropped the goose and hat was Horner’s mysterious accomplice, or is something else going on? And why hide the jewel in a goose? For Holmes and Watson, the game is once again, very much afoot!

Wednesday, December 12th

13:00: The Dickens Project

Music and Dancing live in Dickens Square, with Ktadhn Vesuvino.

19:00: Competing with Time

An original tale read by Ktadhn Vesuvino.

Thursday, December 13th

19:00 The Santa Clause

Shandon Loring one more hitches a ride on a sleigh drawn by a team of rangifer tarandus to bring us the second part of The Santa Clause, a “novelisation” of the Leo Benvenuti / Steve Rudnick screenplay from the 1994 film starring Tim Allen.

Also presented in Kitely (hop://

21:00 Seanchai Late Night

With Finn Zeddmore.

Saturday, December 15th 19:00 noon: The Dickens Project

Idle Rogue Productions at Dickens Square.


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

Two snowy visits in Second Life

Hollyee; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
Hollyee – click any image for full size

There are lots of winter themed regions to visit at this time of year – I’ve already covered a number in these pages for 2018. So many in fact, it’s easy to end up with a mild case of snow blindness :). There is often a tendency to use many of the same elements in such builds – the DRD Polar Express train being one such example. So for this write-up, I thought I’d offer a couple of suggestion that are just that little bit different to the others we’ve visited thus far.

Hollyee is a homestead region designed by Agaras, offering a remote, wild winter setting. Surrounded by tall mountains shrouded in snow and mist, the central feature of the setting is an oval large frozen lake, its surface glittering like a star field and broken by a couple of islands.

Hollyee; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr

The lake is set within a low-lying, wooded landscape, devoid of paths and get trails, but open to wandering under tree and over snow. The entire feeling is that of a remote mountain lake, well away from any major centres of population – but not so far away as to be totally in the wild.

This latter fact can be attested to by the presence of fresh hay that has been left out on the snow, offering horses places to eat, rather than leaving them to  forage under the snow for grass.  Whether the hay has been put out by a local farmer possibly living just beyond the landscape, or by whoever might live in the little A-frame cabin located in the south-east corner of the region, is up to visitors to decide.

Hollyee; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr

The horses aren’t the only animals to be found scattered across the landscape. Wander through the snow as you circle the ice and you’ll find deer, rabbits, wolves and even polar bears – the latter both real and made from snow! Birds circle overhead while a lone owl hunts between the trunks of the trees. All of them serve to give the region a feeling of added depth, as does the local sound scape.

A skate giver is available close to the landing point, although if you have your own, you can obviously wear them. There are also skating poses available for use for singles and couples skating, while scattered across the landscape are a number of places for sitting and cuddling.

Hollyee; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr

The second location I want to mention is Winter Dream. located over the home of Solo Arte, it is once again the work of resident artist there, Terrygold. Like Hollyee, Winter Dream presents a wilderness setting, beautiful in its snowbound, rugged beauty. It’s also another place where having local sounds on is essential to a visit.

Also like Hollyee, central to the design is a frozen lake, a flat expanse of ice from which the occasional hump of rock rises, and towards the middle of which a lone tree stands sentinel, boughs raised as if trying to ward off the steadily falling snow.

Winter Dream; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
Winter Dream

Around this lake is a rocky landscape, stepping upwards towards a surround rim of low cliffs. Two structures rise from the snow, the largest a two-storey stone-and-wood cabin, facing the landing point across the lake. Closer to hand, just to one side of the landing point and watched over by two snowmen, sits a wooden pavilion. A fire is blazing in the hearth here, with wooden chairs ranged before it, but the open sides suggest it might not be as warm as the fire might otherwise suggest.

The most direct route to the cabin is across the ice – but it’s also the boring way. It’s more interesting to head either north then east towards the cabin, or go east then north. Both routes will lead you via points of interest: deer at a feeder, outdoor seating areas,  – including an old Ferris Wheel (although it could perhaps benefit from blanket to help keep those sitting in it warm! 🙂 ) and so on.

Winter Dream; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
Winter Dream

The eastward route will take visitors over some of the ice, which extends around this side of the landscape. So if you have your own ice skates, you might want to make use of them. It also offers a slight climb up to the cabin – but so does the route running north then east from the landing point. Once inside, the cabin offer a place to dance and a break from the weather by the fire places.

Both Hollyee and Winter Dream are quiet, winter settings waiting to be enjoyed. Both are well presented, although each has its own small niggles. Hollyee has a few floating trees and rocks that can make themselves known when taking photos, while the volume of animated mesh snow in Winter Dream can impact performance (particularly if you run with shadows enabled). So do take note when visiting – but don’t let either put you off.

Winter Dream; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
Winter Dream

Really, if the snow hasn’t gotten to you too much, it’s worth grabbing your skates, wrapping up warm and enjoying either of these quiet wintry corners of the grid.

SLurl Details

Bryn Oh: Jane and Eloise in Second Life

Bryn Oh: Jane and Eloise

Jane and Eloise, the latest installation by Bryn Oh officially opens on Saturday, December 8th. As with much of Bryn’s art, this is an immersive installation that carries both a story and a level of interaction – although the latter is perhaps more of a focus than may have been the case with prior pieces.

I wanted to play with the idea of what art can be in the virtual space … In a museum or theatre we stand back and look at a painting or sculpture, we don’t touch them nor interact usually, while in the theatre the movie tells us a story and we sit and listen. We follow the camera where it leads us and should we wish to open a door or look under a bed.. well that is not part of the experience … With this work I wanted to have a short narrative within an artistic environment focusing on colour, line and form but also creating a gamification of the artwork itself.

– Bryn Oh on Jane and Eloise

Bryn Oh: Jane and Eloise

The narrative is that of two sisters – Jane and Eloise – who go fishing on Lake Superior. Theirs is not a happy tale, as they are caught by the changing weather, their boat capsizing on them. Sadly, Jane drowns, witnessed by Eloise, whose life is almost lost as well. Afterwards, Eloise is left tortured by guilt that she survived and nightmares – and the major part of the installation encourages visitors to share in those nightmares and to experience her confusion and distress first-hand.

The first element of the installation is a beach setting – the shoreline of Lake Superior, with changing tents set out on the sand and bathing wagons up to their axles in the water. If you have not previously accepted the Bryn Oh experience (or have revoked it since your last visit), you should accept it when prompted – as it is essential to your participation in the installation.

Travel along the breach and you’ll come to a small vignette depicting the final part of the fishing trip: Eloise, alive, washed up on the shore, the waterlogged canoe drifting just off-shore and Jane, laying just before the waves. Beyond this vignette, out on the horizon, the main part of the installation awaits: the brooding bulk of the maze.

Bryn Oh: Jane and Eloise

The maze is a symbolic recreation of the nightmares that get embedded within our mind after a traumatic experience. It is the mind of Eloise … With a traditional artwork you can then step back and say observe and contemplate [with] this work,  you enter the mind of Eloise and navigate a fairly scary maze trying to find the exit.

– Bryn Oh on Jane and Eloise

Providing you have accepted the experience, arrival at the entrance to the maze should equip you with a miner’s style lamp with head strap. A sign board on the wall near the entrance provides additional information on how best to enjoy it – in short, if you can’t use the recommended windlight (Firestorm should automatically switch to it), make sure you flick your viewer to at least midnight, enable projectors by turning on ALM and remove any face / body lights you are wearing. In difference to the instructions, you don’t need to have shadows enabled to obtain the projected light from the head lamp – but if you can run with them enabled, it adds considerably to the depth of the experience, allowing you to see it exactly as Bryn intended.

Within the maze, are corridors – patrolled by the demons of Eloise’s subconscious – and safe rooms. The idea is to make your way through the corridors, avoiding the monsters with the aid of the safe rooms. It’s a place best experienced in first-person Mouselook, and running may be required at times! In addition, some of the walls of the corridors include paintings, and elements of Bryn’s art can also be found in some corridors and in the safe rooms.

Bryn Oh: Jane and Eloise – exploring the maze with Bryn

Along the way you might find what I call mouse holes. The mouse holes are thin doorways that only a single avatar can squeeze through into another hallway, if a monster is coming you can slip through and they can not follow, but if you are with friends then there might be some frantic pushing and screaming as the monster approaches 🙂 The maze can be scary and cause some anxiety, in tests I have watched people who find mouse holes and linger by them afraid to go further out into the maze.

– Bryn Oh on Jane and Eloise

Bryn invited me to try the maze with her, and I have to confess, it is addictive. If the monsters do get you, you’re teleported back to the start – and they are quite capable of sneaking up behind you! I also recommend having local sounds on; this both allows you to hear the monsters and adds further depth to the piece.

Bryn Oh: Jane and Eloise

This is also a fascinating piece from a technical standpoint as well – and those from the Lab who read this review, I hop you’ll take note of what Bryn has to say vis-a-vis Pathfinding! Essentially, to prevent cheating, the maze rebuilds itself every hour, and as it includes creatures roaming it, it presented special challenges, as Bryn notes:

This work required that a whole new set of scripting was built because other forms would not work with it. For example, pathfinding is a great way to have a monster navigate a maze, except when a maze randomly rebuilds itself. In pathfinding the monster would need to know where each wall is, and then it could move through them.. when you make a new maze every hour the pathfinding creature can’t see those new walls. So a new type of movement had to be created where the creatures would “see” the maze as they move while also looking for people to chase.

– Bryn Oh on Jane and Eloise

All told the development of the maze took some 3 months, and the results are incredible – particularly if you happen to catch the maze rebuilding itself, as I did while exploring with Bryn.

Jane and Eloise has all the classic ingredients from Bryn: narrative, a beautiful use of light and shadow, colour and contrast, interaction and engagement, and despite the sadness of the narrative – offers a game element that when played with others or on your own can get to be addictive.

SLurl Details

2018 SL UG updates 49/2: mini-update

The Peak; Inara Pey, October 2018, on FlickrThe Peakblog post

Server Deployments

As per part 1 of this week’s updates, the RC channel were all updated on Wednesday, December 5th, with simulator maintenance package 18#, comprising:

  • Region stability improvements.
  • Simhost deployment improvements.
  • Logging improvements.

The Snack channel for the Environment Enhancement Project (EEP) was updated the same day to version

SL Viewer

There have been three updates to SL viewers during the week:

  • The Spotykach Maintenance RC updated to version on December 5th.
  • The Love Me Render RC updated to version on December 6th.
  • The Bake on Mesh project viewer updated to version on December 7th.

At the time of writing, the remaining viewers in the pipeline remain as follows:

  • Current Release version, dated October 18, promoted November 14. Formerly the Animesh RC viewer..
  • Release channel cohorts (please see my notes on manually installing RC viewer versions if you wish to install any release candidate(s) yourself):
    • Estate Access Management (EAM) RC viewer, version, September 28.
    • BugSplat RC viewer, version, September 10. This viewer is functionally identical to the current release viewer, but uses BugSplat for crash reporting, rather than the Lab’s own Breakpad based crash reporting tools.
  • Project viewers:
  • Linux Spur viewer, version, dated November 17, 2017 and promoted to release status 29 November – offered pending a Linux version of the Alex Ivy viewer code.
  • Obsolete platform viewer, version, May 8, 2015 – provided for users on Windows XP and OS X versions below 10.7.

End of Year Promotions

At the previous TPV developer meeting, it had been suggested that the Lab would try to promote two viewers to release status before the end of 2018. Given the Lab prefers to have at least two weeks between promotions and the No Change window comes into effect from Friday, December 21st, this would appear to be a bit of squeeze. Currently the front-runners for promotion have been given as the Spotykach Maintenance RC, the BugSplat RC or – on an outside chance – the Bakes on Mesh project viewer.

Remaining Published User Group Meetings for 2018

  • Simulator User Group: Tuesday, December 11th and Tuesday December 18th, 2018, 12:00 noon SLT.
  • Governance User Group: Tuesday, December 11th, 2018, at 13:00 SLT.
  • Open-Source Development User Group: Wednesday, 12th and Wednesday, December 19th 2018, 15:00 SLT*.
  • Content Creation User Group: Thursday, December 13th and Thursday, December 20th, 2018 at 13:00 SLT.
  • Server Beta User Group: Thursday, December 13th and Thursday, December 20th, 2018 at 07:00 SLT*.
  • Web User Group: Wednesday, December 19th, at 12:00 noon SLT.
  • Concierge and Land User Group: Thursday, December 20th, 2018, at 12:00pm SLT.
  • TPV Developer Meeting: Friday, December 21st, 2018 at 12:00 noon SLT.

* Subject to confirmation.

See the SL User Groups panel on the right for details of meeting locations. via their wiki pages.