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Billions of Earth-size planets in our galaxy, researchers say

Anyone out there? Chances brighten in our galaxy

At least one in every four stars like the sun have planets about the size of the Earth circling them in very close orbits, according to the first direct measurement of the incidence of such planets, researchers said Thursday. That means that our galaxy alone, with its roughly 200 billion sun-like stars, has at least 46 billion Earth-size planets orbiting close to the stars, and perhaps billions more circling farther out in what astronomers call the habitable zone, said astronomer Andrew Howard of the University of California at Berkeley, a co-author of the five-year study, conducted using the Keck telescope in Hawaii. All these planets so close to their stars are exceedingly hot and are certainly not habitable. But "it is not a huge stretch to speculate that nature probably makes a lot of these planets farther out in orbits that might be habitable," Howard said. The report appeared in the journal Science.

Russian bears dig up graves for food

Famished bears in northern Russia have resorted to digging up graves in cemeteries — and reportedly ate at least one body — after the hottest summer on record destroyed their natural food sources of forest berries and mushrooms, officials said Thursday. The brown bears' grisly habit is forcing locals in the Arctic Circle region of Komi to mount 24-hour patrols to protect their families and livestock amid fears that the bears might get a taste for fresh human flesh, said Pyotr Lobanov, a regional spokesman for the Emergencies Ministry. Domestic pets, goats and cattle have all fallen prey to the bears since the summer, prompting fences to go up around farmland and more thoughtful disposal of garbage. Komi, about the size of California with the climate of Alaska, is nicknamed "Bear's Corner" because the coniferous Taiga woodland makes it ideal bear habitat.

Billions of Earth-size planets in our galaxy, researchers say 10/28/10 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 9:08pm]
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