Amateur astronomer captures streak of Jupiter impact

An amateur astronomer in Kumamoto Prefecture said Sunday that he had recorded video of a flash of light that was apparently produced when an astral body collided with Jupiter.

Junichi Watanabe, a professor at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, said the observatory reported the incident to the International Astronomical Union after receiving a report about the video recording taken by Masayuki Tachikawa early Saturday morning.

"This kind of light is seldom filmed," Watanabe said.

The astral body that hit Jupiter was probably less than 1 km wide because no trace of it was left at the spot where the flash was observed, Watanabe said.

Read the rest of the story: Glow of Jupiter impact captured in Kumamoto.

Have you seen the Hayabusa space probe’s asteroid pod in Japan

Thousands of people flocked to an exhibition in Japan on Sunday to see a capsule from the Hayabusa space probe which was hoped to have brought asteroid dust to Earth.

Some 1,800 people were queuing in Tokyo to see the heat-proof pod, which had traveled in space with the unmanned craft for seven years, even before the exhibition opened in the morning, a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) spokesman said.

More than 7,000 had visited the first public showing of the capsule by early evening, he said, adding that the space agency expects as many as 50,000 people during the five-day exhibition.

The capsule, which journeyed billions of kilometres (miles), was fired back to Earth in June.

Technical problems had plagued the Hayabusa, which at one stage spun out of control and lost contact with JAXA for seven weeks, delaying the mission for three years until the asteroid and Earth re-aligned.

Read the rest of the story: Thousands flock to see asteroid pod in Japan.

Kyoto University team improves stem cell generation method

A Kyoto University team has developed a method to efficiently generate induced pluripotent stem cells that is less likely to lead to tumor development than the conventional method.

iPS cells are able to transform into the cells of any organ.

The new research, representing a step forward in putting iPS cells into practical use in regenerative medicine, was reported in the online version of the Proceedings of the National Academy of the United States of America on Tuesday.

Generally, iPS cells are produced by introducing four types of genes into skin and other cells. However, one of the genes, c-Myc, can cause cancer.

Read the rest of the article: Safer method to develop iPS cells found

Japan shooting for moon station by 2020

JAPAN is looking at sending a wheeled robot to the moon in five years and building a lunar base by 2020.

The robots would set up solar panels to generate energy and have an observation device to gather geological samples. The materials would then be sent back to Earth by rocket.

The robots would work from the lunar base at the moon’s south pole from 2020.

The plans are part of a year-long study backed by a panel of experts yesterday that will be recommended to Japan’s Government.

But it has been estimated the unmanned mission would cost $2.57 billion over the next 10 years, which could be a problem given government efforts to cut expenditure.

"It is extremely important to probe the moon … as we now see the dawn of the age of great exploration in the solar system," the report said.

via Japan pursues moon station by 2020.

Rare flower blooms after a gap of almost 20 years at the botanical garden in Tokyo

A rare flower that has bloomed after a gap of almost 20 years has attracted thousands of visitors to the botanical garden in Tokyo.

Standing at more than 5ft (1.52m) tall, the Amorphophallus titanum is native to Indonesia’s Sumatra island.

At full bloom the plant emits a pungent smell which one visitor described as “like raw garbage that had grown rotten”. It thrives at the edges of rainforests near open grasslands. Though found in many botanic gardens around the world it is still indigenous only to the tropical forests of Sumatra. Due to its odor, which is seriously reminiscent of the smell of a decomposing animal, the titan arum is also known as a carrion flower, the “Corpse flower”, or “Corpse plant” (Indonesian: bunga bangkai – bunga means flower, while bangkai means corpse or cadaver; for the same reason, the same title is also attributed to Rafflesia which, like the titan arum, also grows in the rainforests of Sumatra).

The popular name titan arum was invented by the broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough, for his BBC TV series The Private Life of Plants, in which the flowering and pollination of the plant were filmed for the first time. Attenborough felt that constantly referring to the plant as Amorphophallus on a popular TV documentary would be inappropriate. =)

Soy sauce ‘could reduce symptoms of menopause’

Scientists say soy contains a natural compound which can help reduce production of oestrogen, the hormone which contributes to menopausal problems.

Studies in Japan, where soy is consumed with meals regularly, found that Asian women experienced milder menopausal symptoms than Americans and Europeans where use of soy is less frequent.

Soy has already been found to have anti-cancer properties and can lower cholesterol.

Now researchers say the new wonder food could be an alternative to conventional hormone replacement therapy as a way of treating uncomfortable menopausal problems, such as hot flushes and even bone loss.

Read the rest of the story: Soy sauce ‘could reduce symptoms of the menopause’

Lightning, Secret Ingredient to boosting mushroom crop yields

Recent research from Iwate University suggests there may be some truth to old Japanese farming legends that claim lightning causes mushrooms to multiply.

In studies conducted over the past four years, Iwate University researchers — led by Associate Professor of Engineering, Koichi Takaki — have found that mushroom crop yields can be improved by applying high-voltage electricity to logs seeded with spores. So far, the team has studied ten mushroom species and found that bolts of lightning-strength electricity improve the crop yields for eight of those species.

Nameko and shiitake mushroom crops have demonstrated the most significant improvements after electrical stimulation. Under the best conditions, the nameko crop yield improved 80%, while the shiitake crop yield doubled.

Read the rest of the story:

Lightning boosts mushroom crop yield

Lightning Makes Mushrooms Multiply

Japan’s solar-powered spacecraft IKAROS photographed in space

Japan’s solar-powered spacecraft IKAROS has been successfully photographed with its open silver space sail, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said Wednesday. The 14-meter-square sail has ultrathin solar cells on film measuring 0.0075 millimeter thick. The cells trap sunlight to generate electricity to power its space flight while at the same time the craft uses photon propulsion. On one side of the film is vapor-deposited aluminum that reflects sunlight, which thus propels the craft.

Shinya Yamanaka wins Kyoto Prize for creating a way to produce embryonic stem cells made from ordinary skin cells

A Japanese scientist who created the equivalent of embryonic stem cells from ordinary skin cells has won one of this year’s Kyoto Prizes and will receive a $550,000 prize. Shinya Yamanaka, 47, developed a way to reprogram skin cells so that they can be developed into all kinds of tissue, such as that of the heart or brain. This has vast potential to speed medical research, creating genetically matched cells for use in damaged parts of the body. He developed the method as an alternative to using embryonic stem cells, an approach that required embryos to be destroyed, raising complicated ethical questions that held back research.

Read the rest of the story: Japanese scientist wins Kyoto Prize for stem cell research without using embryos