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Welcome to PlanetJon

PlanetJon was originally established in 1999 and provided free multiplayer gaming servers and other video game related services. Now though, after those games faded away and spare time became limited, the website is devoted to my interest in all things space related - the planets, solar activity, the exploration of planet Mars, the solar system and beyond - and provides a collection of news and information from around the web.

Somewhere out there, in another galaxy, far, far, away, is a planet called Jon.

  • Lunar Orbiter Takes a Meteorite Strike Right in the Camera

    29 May 2017 | 11:31 pm

    Lunar Orbiter Takes a Meteorite Strike Right in the Camera On October 13th, 2014, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) experienced something rare and unexpected. While monitoring the surface of the Moon, the LRO’s main instrument – the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) – produced an image that was rather unusual. Whereas most of the images it has produced were detailed and exact, this one was subject to all kinds of distortion. From the way this image was disturbed, the LRO science team theorized that the camera must have experienced a sudden and violent movement. In short, they concluded that it had been struck by a tiny meteoroid, which proved to a significant find in itself. Luckily, the LRO and its camera appear to have survived the impact unharmed and will continue to survey the surface of the Moon for years to come. The LROC is a system of three cameras that are mounted aboard the LRO spacecraft. This include two Narrow Angle Cameras (NACs) – which capture high-resolution black and white images – and a third Wide Angle Camera (WAC), which captures moderate resolution images that provide information about the properties and color of the lunar surface. The NACs works by building an image one line at a time, with thousands of lines being used to compile a full image. In between the capture process, the spacecraft moves the camera relative to the surface. On October 13th, 2014, at precisely 21:18:48 UTC, the camera added a line that was visibly distorted. This sent the LRO team on a mission to[…]


  • Juno is Ready to Tell Us What it Found at Jupiter

    29 May 2017 | 6:23 pm

    Juno is Ready to Tell Us What it Found at Jupiter Even a casual observer can see how complex Jupiter might be. Its Great Red Spot is one of the most iconic objects in our Solar System. The Great Red Spot, which is a continuous storm 2 or 3 times as large as Earth, along with Jupiter’s easily-seen storm cloud belts, are visual clues that Jupiter is a complex place. We’ve been observing the Great Red Spot for almost 200 years, so we’ve known for a long time that something special is happening at Jupiter. Now that the Juno probe is there, we’re finding that Jupiter might be a more surprising place than we thought. “There is so much going on here that we didn’t expect that we have had to take a step back and begin to rethink of this as a whole new Jupiter.” – Scott Bolton, Juno’s Principal Investigator at the Southwest Research Institute. So far, the stunning images delivered to us by the JunoCam have stolen the show. But Juno is a science mission, and the fantastic images we’re feasting on might stir the imagination, but it’s the science that’s at the heart of the mission. The Juno probe arrived at Jupiter in July 2016, and completed its first data-pass on August 27th, 2016. That pass took it to within 4,200 km of Jupiter’s cloud tops. Results from that first pass are being published in the journal Science and in Geophysical Research Letters. Taken together, the results confirm what we might have guessed by just looking at[…]


  • There’s a Hard Rock Rain on the Moon, We Can See it From Earth

    29 May 2017 | 5:42 pm

    There’s a Hard Rock Rain on the Moon, We Can See it From Earth In February of 2015, the National Observatory of Athens and the European Space Agency launched the Near-Earth object Lunar Impacts and Optical TrAnsients (NELIOTA) project. Using the 1.2 meter telescope at the Kryoneri Observatory, the purpose of this project is to the determine the frequency and distribution of Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) by monitoring how often they impact the Moon. Last week, on May 24th, 2017, the ESA announced that the project had begun to detect impacts, which were made possible thanks to the flashes of light detected on the lunar surface. Whereas other observatories that monitor the Moon’s surface are able to detect these impacts, NELIOTA is unique in that it is capable of not only spotting fainter flashes, but also measuring the temperatures of they create. Projects like NELIOTA are important because the Earth and the Moon are constantly being bombarded by natural space debris – which ranges in size from dust and pebbles to larger objects. While larger objects are rare, they can cause considerable damage, like the 20-meter object that disintegrated above the Russian city of Chelyabinsk in February of 2013, causing extensive injuries and destruction of property. What’s more, whereas particulate matter rains down on Earth and the Moon quite regularly, the frequency of pebble-sized or meter-sized objects is not well known. These objects remain too small to be detected by telescopes directly, and cameras are rarely able to picture them before they break up in Earth’s atmosphere. Hence, scientists have been looking for other ways[…]


  • SpaceX Targets June 1 Launch of Space Station Cargo Delivery Mission for NASA

    28 May 2017 | 11:58 pm

    SpaceX Targets June 1 Launch of Space Station Cargo Delivery Mission for NASA SpaceX is targeting a June 1 blastoff for the firms next cargo delivery mission to the International Space Station (ISS) for NASA following today’s (May 28) successful test firing of the Falcon 9 booster’s main engines on the Florida Space Coast under sunny skies. Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the unmanned Dragon cargo freighter from seaside pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is slated for 5:55 p.m. EDT Thursday, June 1. “Static fire test of Falcon 9 complete,” SpaceX confirmed via Twitter soon after completion of the test at noon today 12 p.m. EDT. “Targeting June 1 launch from historic Pad 39A for Dragon’s next resupply mission to the @Space_Station.” The static fire test also apparently set off a brush fire near the pad which required a response from firefighters to douse the blaze with water bucket drops from helicopters. “#USFWS firefighters are responding to a new wildfire at Merritt Island NWR caused by a static rocket test fire #FLfire,” tweeted the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The wildfire stretched to 4 acres on Merritt Island and was successfully contained, the US Fish and Wildlife Service said. With the launch conveniently coinciding with dinnertime, it will offer prime time viewing thrills for spectators and space enthusiasts coming from near and far. The weather outlook for Thursday is currently promising with mostly sunny conditions but can change at a moments notice. And to top that off SpaceX will attempt a land landing of the first[…]


  • How Far Away is Fusion? Unlocking the Power of the Sun

    27 May 2017 | 4:32 pm

    How Far Away is Fusion? Unlocking the Power of the Sun I’d like to think we’re smarter than the Sun. Let’s compare and contrast. Humans, on the one hand, have made enormous advances in science and technology, built cities, cars, computers, and phones. We have split the atom for war and for energy. What has the Sun done? It’s a massive ball of plasma, made up of mostly hydrogen and helium. It just, kind of, sits there. Every now and then it burps up hydrogen gas into a coronal mass ejection. It’s not a stretch to say that the Sun, and all inanimate material in the Universe, isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer. And yet, the Sun has mastered a form of energy that we just can’t seem to wrap our minds around: fusion. It’s really infuriating, seeing the Sun, just sitting there, effortlessly doing something our finest minds have struggled with for half a century. Why can’t we make fusion work? How long until we can finally catch up technologically with a sphere of ionized gas? The trick to the Sun’s ability to generate power through nuclear fusion, of course, comes from its enormous mass. The Sun contains 1.989 x 10^30 kilograms of mostly hydrogen and helium, and this mass pushes inward, creating a core heated to 15 million degrees C, with 150 times the density of water. It’s at this core that the Sun does its work, mashing atoms of hydrogen into helium. This process of fusion is an exothermic reaction, which means that every time a new[…]