These stunning images of Mercury are causing scientists to re-think how the planet closest to the sun was formed four billion years ago.
Initial data gathered by Nasa's Messenger probe - which is three months into a year-long exploratory mission around Mercury - reveal that the cratered planet contains rich deposits of sulphur, unlike other planets in our solar system.
Scientists now suspect that volcanoes played a major role in shaping the planet, which would explain its high sulphur content. The theory also suggests that Mercury may have had different building blocks to Venus, Earth and Mars.
The images reveal a massive plain of ancient lava flow spanning 400million square kilometers - about half the size of the U.S.
'It's almost a new planet because we've never had this kind of observatory before,' said lead researcher Sean Solomon of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C.
'Elements like that are usually lost in space. The fact that we see sulphur from the surface points strongly that we had sulphur gases coming out.
'All of our simple ideas - a hot planet easily depleted of volatiles - are not turning out to be the simple story we thought.'
The probe has also uncovered evidence of a lopsided magnetic field, which is stronger in the north than the south. Scientists cannot account for the asymmetry, but one theory is that the planet's magnetic field is in the processing of flipping.
Mercury is the only terrestrial body besides Earth that has a magnetic field and one of the prime goals of the Messenger mission is to figure out how Mercury, which sports a massive iron core, was assembled. It is believed that Mercury's core, like Earth's, is responsible for generating its magnetic field.
Scientists are hoping the Messenger probe will be able to reveal if Mercury hides ice insides its permanently shadowed giant craters or 'basins'. - dailymail
MUFON Star Team investigators experience sighting / paranormal activity
MUFON CMS - 6/16/2011: I am the Assistant State Director for Missouri MUFON, and a Star Team Investigator. The person with me was a Star Team investigator for Kansas MUFON. We had a spectacular UFO sighting while on the last leg of our trip from Kansas City to Piedmont, MO, located in the SE corner of Missouri in Wayne County.
The duration of the trip should have been six hours according to my GPS. With stops taken into consideration, we should have arrived at 9:30 p.m., but we arrived at our destination at 10:37 p.m., so we had over an hour of missing time. We cannot account for the missing time.
As I was driving South on 67 Highway past Farmington at the very South edge of Francious County, I noticed a bright object in the sky to the East. The object appeared to be three very bright lights in a triangular pattern. It was approximately the size of a large pea held at arm's length. The object was much brighter than any planet (5 x brighter than Venus) and was bluish/white in color. It was at approximately 50 degrees off the horizon and ENE of our position. It appeared to get larger and clearer as I watched it. I also had an uneasy feeling, which started before I saw the object.
I asked my passenger (the other MUFON investigator) to take a look at the object, so he opened the sunroom of my SUV and watched it. He said the object moved to the North, and when I looked it was gone. He watched several shooting objects without tails moving from West to Northeast, but behaving like shooting stars. Then three long white lights appeared, moving very fast from a NE to SW direction. The first triangular object appeared and disappeared three times. These objects moved around the sky for approximately fifteen minutes. The skies clouded over and we lost sight of the objects. We were both very uneasy about the entire sighting, and thought it was coincidental that this occurred while we were on our way to the Piedmont UFO Festival where I was speaking.
While at the event, my computer, which contained the power point presentation on UFO sightings in Missouri, was stolen from my locked vehicle. It has since reappeared in my house on my dining room table, minus the power point presentation I was going to use and another one on a different UFO case. The laptop was not there last night, but was this morning. I am absolutely positive it was in my vehicle, since we discussed taking it inside on the first day of the event (Friday), but I said no since I didn't need it until Saturday, and moved it to a different spot in the back seat.
Also notable: We had some paranormal events happen at the house we were staying at in Piedmont, which consisted of scratching and banging noises on the outside of the house and a glass breaking sound inside the house, which two of us heard, as well as some objects moved to different locations. I had a strange dream about being abducted and restrained on a UFO, but that may be just a dream given the circumstances.
Attached are Google Earth pictures with the location of the first sighting noted and the location of our destination. Note that East of our first position where the first UFO was spotted is the Mississippi River.
Pigs could grow human organs in stem cell breakthrough
Scientists have found they can create chimeric animals that have organs belonging to another species by injecting stem cells into the embryo of another species.
The researchers injected stem cells from rats into the embryos of mice that had been genetically altered so they could not produce their own organs, creating mice that had rat organs.
The researchers say the technique could allow pigs to grow human organs from patient's stem cells for use as transplants.
By using a patient's own stem cells it could help to reduce the risk of the transplanted organ being rejected while also providing a plentiful supply of donor organs.
Current organ shortages mean that patients must endure long waiting lists for transplants.
Professor Hiromitsu Nakauchi, director of the centre for stem cell biology and regenerative medicine at the University of Tokyo in Japan and who led the research, said: "Our ultimate goal is to generate human organs from induced pluripotent stem cells.
"The technique, called blastocyst complementation, provides us with a novel approach for organ supply. We have successfully tried it between mice and rats. We are now rather confident in generating functional human organs using this approach."
Professor Nakauchi, who presented the study at the annual conference of the European Society of Human Genetics, used a type of adult stem cell known as induced pluripotent stem cells, which can be taken from a sample of tissue such as the skin and encouraged to grow into any type of cell found in the body.
Together with his colleagues, he injected these cells taken from rats into the embryos, or blastocysts as they can be called, of mice that were unable to grow their on pancreas, the organ that produces important hormones including insulin.
When the mice matured to adulthood, they showed no signs of diabetes and had developed a pancreas that was almost entirely formed from the injected rat stem cells.
The scientists claim the rat stem cells grew in the niche left by the absent mouse pancreas and so almost any organ could be produced in this way.
If replicated using human stem cells, the technique could produce a way of treating diabetic patients by providing a way of replacing their pancreas.
The project has echoes of the bestselling book and film Never Let Me Go where clones are used to provide organ donations for the wealthy. In reality researchers are not allowed to create human embryos that lack the ability to grow organs and so they hope to do the same using pigs.
Professor Nakauchi said they hoped to further test the technique by growing other organs and were also seeking permission to use human stem cells.
They have, however, already managed to produce pigs that were able to generate human blood by injecting blood stem cells from humans into pig foetuses.
He said: "For ethical reasons we cannot make an organ deficient human embryo and use it for blastocyst complementation.
"So to make use of this system to generate human organs, we must use this technique using blastocysts of livestock animals such as pigs instead.
"Blastocyst complementation across species had never been tested before, but we have now shown that it can work."
Professor Chris Mason, chair of regenerative medicine at University College London, said: "There is no doubt that curing diabetes is challenging, but this could be a potential way forward albeit a very long shot requiring sustained resources and major finance for its testing and development."
"For something like a kidney transplant where it is not urgent, it would be highly attractive to be able to take cells from a patient, grow them in this way and deliver a personalised kidney."
"There is a long way to go before it could result in useable transplants, but it is an exciting vision." - telegraph
Zoo staff super-glued tarantula back together
The brown tarantula gently sandwiched between Jeff Rife's hands didn't move or fuss much as an Oklahoma City Zoo staff member glued it back together.
The spider is about 6 or 7 years old and has been a resident of the Oklahoma Trails exhibit since it opened in 2007, said Rife, antelope supervisor at the zoo.
She's pretty good, as far as tarantulas go, Rife said, and she was her normal, docile self when zookeepers glued up her exoskeleton after a dangerous injury.
Zookeepers aren't sure how the tarantula got a nick on her abdomen, Rife said, but they spotted a soft, watery glob on top of her at the end of May.
“We weren't quite for sure what it was,” Rife said.
After some research, zoo staffers figured out it was part of the spider's innards. They used a cotton swab to gently tap the mass back inside, and then they dabbed skin adhesive — a kind of superglue for living creatures — over the nick.
Three weeks after the procedure, the tarantula is behaving normally and eating plenty of crickets, Rife said.
“So far that we've seen,” he said, “it's doing well.”