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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.

  • Astronomers Observe the Rotating Accretion Disk Around the Supermassive Black Hole in M77

    20 Feb 2018 | 1:12 pm

    Astronomers Observe the Rotating Accretion Disk Around the Supermassive Black Hole in M77 During the 1970s, scientists confirmed that radio emissions coming from the center of our galaxy were due to the presence of a Supermassive Black Hole (SMBH). Located about 26,000 light-years from Earth between the Sagittarius and Scorpius constellation, this feature came to be known as Sagittarius A*. Since that time, astronomers have come to understand that most massive galaxies have an SMBH at their center. What’s more, astronomers have come to learn that black holes in these galaxies are surrounded by massive rotating toruses of dust and gas, which is what accounts for the energy they put out. However, it was only recently that a team of astronomers, using the the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), were able to capture an image of the rotating dusty gas torus around the supermassive black hole of M77. The study which details their findings recently appeared in the Astronomical Journal Letters under the title “ALMA Reveals an Inhomogeneous Compact Rotating Dense Molecular Torus at the NGC 1068 Nucleus“. The study was conducted by a team of Japanese researchers from the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan – led by Masatoshi Imanishi – with assistance from Kagoshima University. Like most massive galaxies, M77 has an Active Galactic Nucleus (AGN), where dust and gas are being accreted onto its SMBH, leading to higher than normal luminosity. For some time, astronomers have puzzled over the curious relationship that exists between SMBHs and galaxies. Whereas more massive galaxies have larger SMBHs, host galaxies are still 10 billion times[…]

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  • Opportunity Just Saw its 5,000th Sunrise on Mars

    19 Feb 2018 | 9:19 pm

    Opportunity Just Saw its 5,000th Sunrise on Mars It’s been a time of milestones for Mars rovers lately! Last month (on January 26th, 2018), NASA announced that the Curiosity rover had spent a total of 2,000 days on Mars, which works out to 5 years, 5 months and 21 days. This was especially impressive considering that the rover was only intended to function on the Martian surface for 687 days (a little under two years). But when it comes to longevity, nothing has the Opportunity rover beat! Unlike Curiosity, which relied on a Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG) for power, the solar-powered Opportunity recently witnessed its five-thousandth sunrise on Mars. This means that the rover has remained in continuous operation for 5000 sols, which works out to 5137.46 Earth days. This five-thousandth sunrise began on Friday, Feb. 16th, 2018 – roughly 14 Earth years (and 7.48 Martian years) after the rover first landed. From its position on the western rim of the Endeavour Crater, the sunrise appeared over the basin’s eastern rim, about 22 km (14 mi) away. This location, one-third of the way down “Perseverance Valley”, is more than 45 km (28 mi) from Opportunity’s original landing site. This is especially impressive when you consider that the original science mission was only meant to last 90 sols (92.47 Earth days) and NASA did not expect the rover to survive its first Martian winter. And yet, the rover has not only survived all this time, it continues to send back scientific discoveries from the Red Planet. As John[…]

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  • Subscribe to Our New Weekly Email Newsletter Written By Fraser

    19 Feb 2018 | 7:28 pm

    It’s been almost 19 years since I founded Universe Today, back in March, 1999. Back when I started, it was a primarily an email-based newsletter with an archive version on the web where people could read it if they wanted to. The technology was pretty rudimentary at the time, so I had to do everything by hand, sending out a BCC email to thousands of people every day, eventually finding other email mailing list providers. At some point, I shifted from commentary and summaries to full on reporting on space news. And at that time, automated tools arrived that would take all the stories you wrote in a day, bundled them up and sent them out via email to a list of subscribers. That was great and convenient for me, but it didn’t make for the best experience. It lost its soul. A couple of months ago, I decided to return to my roots and continue maintaining a weekly email newsletter that summarizes some of the top stories that happened this week. And not just stories from here on Universe Today, but stories from across the Universe of space journalists and websites, including Space.com, Ars Technica, Ethan Siegel, Brian Koberlein, TheVerge and many more. I see more amazing things out there than we could ever report on. I figured I might as well share it. Each edition of the weekly newsletter comes out on Friday, and is hand-written personally by me, and includes a few dozen summaries and links to[…]

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  • Neptune’s Huge Storm Is Shrinking Away In New Images From Hubble

    19 Feb 2018 | 3:14 pm

    Neptune’s Huge Storm Is Shrinking Away In New Images From Hubble Back in the late 1980’s, Voyager 2 was the first spacecraft to capture images of the giant storms in Neptune’s atmosphere. Before then, little was known about the deep winds cycling through Neptune’s atmosphere. But Hubble has been turning its sharp eye towards Neptune over the years to study these storms, and over the past couple of years, it’s watched one enormous storm petering out of existence. “It looks like we’re capturing the demise of this dark vortex, and it’s different from what well-known studies led us to expect.” – Michael H. Wong, University of California at Berkeley. When we think of storms on the other planets in our Solar System, we automatically think of Jupiter. Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is a fixture in our Solar System, and has lasted 200 years or more. But the storms on Neptune are different: they’re transient. The storm on Neptune moves in an anti-cyclonic direction, and if it were on Earth, it would span from Boston to Portugal. Neptune has a much deeper atmosphere than Earth—in fact it’s all atmosphere—and this storm brings up material from deep inside. This gives scientists a chance to study the depths of Neptune’s atmosphere without sending a spacecraft there. The first question facing scientists is ‘What is the storm made of?’ The best candidate is a chemical called hydrogen sulfide (H2S). H2S is a toxic chemical that stinks like rotten eggs. But particles of H2S are not actually dark, they’re reflective. Joshua Tollefson from the University of[…]

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  • Carnival of Space #549

    19 Feb 2018 | 1:02 pm

    Welcome to the 549th Carnival of Space! The Carnival is a community of space science and astronomy writers and bloggers, who submit their best work each week for your benefit. So now, on to this week’s stories! First up, over at the Chandra X Ray Observatory Blog, they have two articles about the The Billion-year Race Between Black Holes and Galaxies – from guest bloggers Mar Mezcua and Guang Yang. Then, we visit Zain Husain at the Brown Spaceman blog for his review of the amazing Falcon Heavy launch, and he discusses now Falcon Heavy could speed up science and space exploration. Next we visit The Evolving Planet, where Astronomers release most advanced universe simulation yet, an amazing program called IllustrisTNG. Over at CosmoQuest Jennifer Grier shares another CQ Science – Post 13: How Impacts Change the Rocks – Samples in Hand, which highlights the Planetary Science Institute’s fantastic impact rock kits, available for loan to educators. Then Amy Jagge discusses Using Astronaut Photography as an Instructional Aid in Science Education and Andrea Meado talks about Studying Clouds Dynamics as an Instructional Tool in Science Education Using Astronaut Photography. And finally, KT Seery gives us a fantastic infographic listing all of the Interesting Astronomy Objects this month! Thank you for all of your stories – we’ll see you next week! And if you’re interested in looking back, here’s an archive to all the past Carnivals of Space. If you’ve got a space-related blog, you should really join the carnival. Just[…]

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