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Milky Way teeming with ‘billions’ of planets: study

PARIS — The Milky Way is home to far more planets than previously thought, boosting the odds that at least one of them may harbour life, according to a study released Wednesday. Not long ago, astronomers counted the number of “exoplanets” detected outside our own solar system in the teens,…

Little threat to Earth from big asteroid: NASA

WASHINGTON — Fewer giant asteroids are out in space than once thought and most of the biggest near-Earth asteroids have been found, leaving little threat of one smashing into the planet, NASA said Thursday. The latest data from the US space agency’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE telescope, shows…

Ancient river-like volcanoes formed Mercury’s plains

WASHINGTON — The planet closest to the Sun had plenty of its own heat to release billions of years ago and erupted in vast river-like volcanoes that oozed around its northern pole, said a study out Thursday. For more than three decades, scientists have thought volcanoes may have helped craft…

Gargantuan tempest spotted on Saturn

PARIS — Imagine being caught in a thunderstorm as wide as the Earth with discharges of lightning 10,000 times more powerful than normal, flashing 10 times per second at its peak. Now imagine that this storm is still unfolding, eight months later. One of the most violent weather events in…

Are humans reshaping Earth?

LONDON (AFP) – If alien geologists were to visit our planet 10 million years from now, would they discern a distinct human fingerprint in Earth’s accumulating layers of rock and sediment? Will homo sapiens, in other words, define a geological period in the way dinosaurs — and their vanishing act…

Mystery of hot planets’ ‘backwards’ orbit unravelled

PARIS (AFP) – Scientists on Wednesday said they could explain why heat-seared giant planets in other solar systems can mysteriously orbit their star the “wrong” way. These space oddities belong to a class of planets known as hot Jupiters — gassy giants that are the size of our own Jupiter…

MESSENGER offers close-up of mysterious Mercury

WASHINGTON — NASA celebrated hundreds of stunning photographs from the Mercury MESSENGER probe as it began a year-long mission to orbit and map the solar system’s mysterious innermost planet. After more than six and a half years and a 4.9-billion-mile (7.9-billion-kilometer) journey, the spacecraft — which stands for MErcury Surface,…

NASA spacecraft is first to orbit Mercury

WASHINGTON (AFP) – A NASA spacecraft began orbiting Mercury, becoming the first to fly around the solar system’s innermost planet, the space agency said. The craft, known as MESSENGER, began the orbit around 9:00 pm (0200 GMT) on a mission to circle the planet for one Earth year in an…

NASA spacecraft prepares to enter Mercury’s orbit

WASHINGTON – A NASA spacecraft is poised to enter the orbit of Mercury later Thursday, and it will circle for one Earth year in an unprecedented study of the tiny, hot planet that is closest to the Sun. The craft, known as MESSENGER, began its journey more than six years…

Global warming means more snowstorms: scientists

WASHINGTON – Climate change is not only making the planet warmer, it is also making snowstorms stronger and more frequent, US scientists said on Tuesday. “Heavy snowstorms are not inconsistent with a warming planet,” said scientist Jeff Masters, as part of a conference call with reporters and colleagues convened by…

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