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Monday, Sep 26th

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Here Come The Suns: New Planet Orbits Two Stars

Planet orbits two sunsA trillion is a huge number — when you're talking dollars or euros. But a trillion miles is not so much in the cosmic scheme of things. Astronomers say they've now found a planet that orbits two suns a mere thousand trillion miles from here. It's yet another example of a weird solar system being discovered around nearby stars.

Two years ago, NASA launched the Kepler observatory to look for Earth-like planets beyond our own solar system. It has found more than 1,000 apparent planets around distant suns.

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Fifty New Planets Found—Largest Haul Yet

50 new planets foundFifty new alien worlds, including 16 "super Earths," have been found—the largest extrasolar planet haul announced at one time, astronomers say. The discoveries bring the total number of known extrasolar planets, or exoplanets, to 645.

"The harvest of discoveries ... has exceeded all expectations, and includes an exceptionally rich population of super-Earths and Neptune-type planets hosted by stars very similar to our sun," study leader Michel Mayor, an astronomer at the University of Geneva in Switzerland, said in a statement.

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New Fossils May Redraw Human Family Tree

New fossil An apelike creature with human features, whose fossil bones were discovered recently in a South African cave, is the most plausible known ancestor of archaic and modern humans, the scientists who discovered the fossils say.

The claim, if accepted, would radically redraw the present version of the human family tree, placing the new fossil species in the center. The new species, called Australopithecus sediba, would dislodge Homo habilis, the famous tool-making fossil found by Louis and Mary Leakey, as the immediate human ancestor.

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NASA launches Web tool to explore the solar system

solar systemWant to explore the solar system and follow NASA space missions in real time?

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is giving the public the chance to do just that through a new Internet-based tool called Eyes on the Solar System. The space agency said the tool combines video-game technology and NASA data to create an environment for users to ride along with agency spacecraft as they explore the cosmos.

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Scientists Create World's First Molecule-Sized Electric Motor

Molecule sized motorResearchers at Tufts University in Massachusetts have created the world's smallest electric motor, the size of a single molecule, recently publishing the results in the scientific journal Nature Nanotechnology. Although applications for the nanoscale device are a long way off, the achievement could one day lead to nanoscale machines capable of performing surgery on a single cell, for instance.

The motor is made of a single molecule of butyl methyl sulfide—basically a sulfur molecule with two "arms" made of carbon and hydrogen atoms (the yellow-and-green dots in the middle of the photo to the left).

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Astronomers discover planet made of diamond

Planet made of diamondAstronomers have spotted an exotic planet that seems to be made of diamond racing around a tiny star in our galactic backyard.

The new planet is far denser than any other known so far and consists largely of carbon. Because it is so dense, scientists calculate the carbon must be crystalline, so a large part of this strange world will effectively be diamond.

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Life on Mars? Fossil find shows it's possible

Life on Mars?Scientists have found Earth's oldest fossils in Australia and say their microscopic discovery is convincing evidence that cells and bacteria were able to thrive in an oxygen-free world more than 3.4 billion years ago.

The finding suggests early life was sulphur-based -- living off and metabolizing sulphur rather than oxygen for energy -- and supports the idea that similar life forms could exist on other planets where oxygen levels are low or non-existent.

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