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'Super-Earth' planet spurs hope for billions more

Astronomers have detected a rocky "super-Earth" planet orbiting a nearby star in a region where life could possibly exist, a finding that led one of the team from UC Santa Cruz to predict there must be billions more of them in the Milky Way.

"Detecting this planet so near implies that our galaxy must be teeming with billions of potentially habitable rocky planets," said Steven Vogt, a veteran UC Santa Cruz planet hunter who is a member of the discovery team and is now completing a new telescope called the Automated Planet Finder at the Lick Observatory atop Mount Hamilton near San Jose.


Hubble Telescope captures Milky Way galaxy's twin

Hubble photo of twin galaxyImagine you could step out of our Milky Way a few million light-years and take a look back. This is the sort of view you might see. That is because this dazzling new image from the Hubble Space Telescope is of a galaxy that is thought to resemble our own.

Known as NGC 1073, and lying 55 million light-years away in the constellation of Cetus, it is a spiral galaxy, like so many classic “star cities”, but has a distinctive bar across its middle. This bar apparently denotes a galaxy that has moved on from being a bright young thing and headed into middle age.


Scientists create the world's first atomic X-ray laser

X-ray laserScientists at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have created the world's first atomic X-ray laser. The researchers aimed SLAC's Linac Coherent Light Source at a capsule of neon gas, setting off an avalanche of X-ray emissions to create the shortest, purest X-ray laser pulses ever achieved.

"X-rays give us a penetrating view into the world of atoms and molecules," said physicist Nina Rohringer ofGermany's Max Planck Society in a news release last week.


NASA discovers 26 new alien planets in 11 solar systems

26 new planetsNASA's prolific planet-hunting spacecraft has hit the jackpot again, discovering 11 new planetary systems with 26 confirmed alien planets among them.

The findings nearly double the number of bona fide planets found outside our solar system by the Kepler space observatory.


Lost Charles Darwin fossils rediscovered in cabinet

Darwin fossils foundA "treasure trove" of fossils - including some collected by Charles Darwin - has been re-discovered in an old cabinet. The fossils, lost for some 165 years, were found by chance in the vaults of the British Geological Survey HQ near Keyworth, UK.

They have now been photographed and are available to the public through a new online museum exhibit released today. The find was made by the palaeontologist Dr Howard Falcon-Lang.


Astronomers see more planets than stars in galaxy

Astronomers see more planets than starsThe more astronomers look for other worlds, the more they find that it's a crowded and crazy cosmos. They think planets easily outnumber stars in our galaxy and they're even finding them in the strangest of places. And they've only begun to count.

Three studies released Wednesday, in the journal Nature and at the American Astronomical Society's conference in Austin, Texas, demonstrate an extrasolar real estate boom. One study shows that in our Milky Way, most stars have planets. And since there are a lot of stars in our galaxy - about 100 billion - that means a lot of planets.


Doomsday clock a minute closer to midnight

Doomsday ClockThe symbolic Doomsday Clock calculated by a group of scientists was moved a minute closer to midnight on Tuesday, with the group citing inadequate progress on nuclear weapons reduction and climate change.

The clock was moved to five minutes to midnight, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists said, the first adjustment since the beginning of 2010, when it was moved back one minute to six minutes from midnight -- or "doomsday".


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