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Tuesday, Dec 12th

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Farewell Cassini: Saturn spacecraft makes fiery, final dive

Cassini makes final, fiery diveNASA's Cassini spacecraft disintegrated in the skies above Saturn on Friday in a final, fateful blaze of cosmic glory, following a remarkable journey of 20 years.

Confirmation of Cassini's expected demise came about 7:55 a.m. EDT. That's when radio signals from the spacecraft — its last scientific gifts to Earth — came to an abrupt halt. The radio waves went flat, and the spacecraft fell silent.

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Massive black hole discovered near heart of the Milky Way

Black hole found at center of Milky WayAn enormous black hole one hundred thousand times more massive than the sun has been found hiding in a toxic gas cloud wafting around near the heart of the Milky Way.

If the discovery is confirmed, the invisible behemoth will rank as the second largest black hole ever seen in the Milky Way after the supermassive black hole known as Sagittarius A* that is anchored at the very centre of the galaxy.

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Astronaut Peggy Whitson home safe after record stay aboard space station

Astonaut Peggy Whitson homeAstronaut Peggy Whitson is home safe after spending a record 288 days on the International Space Station.

Whitson touched down in Kazakhstan at 9:21 p.m. EDT on Saturday aboard a Soyuz capsule. Whitson was joined for the trip home by NASA colleague Jack Fischer and cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikin of Roscosmos.

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'Most bizarre dinosaur ever found' is missing evolutionary link – study

Most bizarre dinosaur ever foundAn unusual vegetarian dinosaur with the silhouette of a flesh-ripping velociraptor, whose fossilised remains were unearthed in southern Chile 13 years ago, is a missing link in dinosaur evolution, researchers have said.

A revised assessment of the kangaroo-sized Chilesaurus diegosuarezi , reported in the journal Biology Letters, bolsters a theory unveiled earlier this year that threatens to upend a long-standing classification of all dinosaurs.

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U.S. scientists fix disease genes in human embryos for 1st time

US scientists fix disease genes in human embryosFor the first time, scientists working in a U.S. lab have used gene editing to correct a disease-causing mutation in viable human embryos, according to scientific paper published Wednesday.

The work, reported in Nature, could be a step toward genetically modified babies. But the altered embryos created in the study were quickly destroyed and never intended to be implanted in a woman — a step that would be illegal under current regulations in the United States and many other countries.

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Under pressure, Western tech firms bow to Russian demands to share cyber secrets

Western techs to give cyber secrets to RussiaWestern technology companies, including Cisco, IBM and SAP, are acceding to demands by Moscow for access to closely guarded product security secrets, at a time when Russia has been accused of a growing number of cyber attacks on the West, a Reuters investigation has found.

Russian authorities are asking Western tech companies to allow them to review source code for security products such as firewalls, anti-virus applications and software containing encryption before permitting the products to be imported and sold in the country. The requests, which have increased since 2014, are ostensibly done to ensure foreign spy agencies have not hidden any "backdoors" that would allow them to burrow into Russian systems.

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Molecule essential to life found near newborn sun-like stars

Molecule essential to life found near new starsTwo teams of astronomers have discovered methyl isocyanate, an organic compound and chemical building block for life, surrounding newborn sun-like stars.

"This family of organic molecules is involved in the synthesis of peptides and amino acids, which, in the form of proteins, are the biological basis for life as we know it," researchers explained in a news release.

The infant star system, IRAS 16293-2422, has previously yielded evidence of sugar molecules.

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