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Earth-Sized Worlds Spotted in New Advance for Exoplanets

Astronomers on Tuesday said that for the first time they had spotted two Earth-sized worlds orbiting a Sun-like star, in another big advance in the search for so-called exoplanets.

One of the planets is just three percent bigger than Earth and the other is 13 percent smaller, which would make it a bit tinier than Venus, they reported online in the British science journal Nature.

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Study Shows Big Quakes no More Likely Than in Past

Massive earthquakes are no more likely today than they were a century ago, despite an apparent rise of the devastating temblors in recent years, U.S. researchers said on Monday.

The deadly 9.0 earthquake this year in Japan, an 8.8 quake in Chile last year and the 2004 Sumatra-Andaman earthquake that registered 9.0 on the moment magnitude scale have raised alarm in some science and media circles that such events may be linked.

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Nuclear Waste Site Hunt Could Point to Granite

The likely death of a planned nuclear waste site at Nevada's Yucca Mountain has left federal agencies looking for a possible replacement. A national laboratory working for the U.S. Department of Energy is now eying granite deposits stretching from Georgia to Maine as potential sites, along with big sections of Minnesota and Wisconsin where that rock is prevalent.

Three decades after the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act said the federal government would handle disposal of high-level radioactive waste, the United States still has no agreed-upon solution for where and how to dispose of about 70,000 metric tons of it. About 10 percent is from the military's nuclear weapons programs; most of the rest is piling up at commercial reactor sites around the country.

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Nigeria Relaunches Broadcast Satellite into Orbit

Nigerian officials said they have launched a broadcast satellite into orbit to replace one that was lost in space.

Project manager Abdulrahman Adejah said Monday on state-run television that NIGCOMSAT-1R launched successfully from a Chinese launch pad.

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U.S. Zoo Receives $4.5 Million Panda Donation

The National Zoo in Washington announced Monday it had received a $4.5 million donation from a rich U.S. benefactor which will fund a five-year study into preservation of the giant panda.

The money from David Rubenstein, co-founder of the Carlyle Group, a global investment house, will fund conservation and reproduction programs in China, scholarships and training, and refurbishment of panda enclosures in Washington.

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Comet Defies Death, Brushes Up to Sun and Lives

A small comet survived what astronomers figured would be a sure death when it danced uncomfortably close to the broiling sun.

Comet Lovejoy, which was only discovered a couple of weeks ago, was supposed to melt Thursday night when it came close to where temperatures hit several million degrees. Astronomers had tracked 2,000 other sun-grazing comets make the same suicidal trip. None had ever survived.

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Study Shows Doomed Gas Cloud Rushing Toward Black Hole

Astronomers have spied a giant gas cloud with several times the mass of Earth accelerating toward the supermassive black hole at the center of our own Milky Way galaxy.

The doomed cloud has a rendezvous with oblivion in mid-2013, when it will pass within 40 billion kilometers -- a hair's breadth on astronomical scales -- of the voracious, matter-sucking void, according to a study to be published in Nature on January 5.

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Scientists Find Answer to Supernova Riddle

The discovery of a supernova only hours after its explosion has probably solved a long-standing mystery on the origin of the brightest known phenomena in the Universe, scientists reported Wednesday.

On August 24, scientists witnessed the spectacular eruption of light and energy thrown off by the birth of SN 2011fe, the brightest and -- at a mere 20.9 million light years away -- closest-to-Earth supernova in over 25 years.

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'Elvis' Monkey, Psychedelic Gecko Found in SE Asia

A psychedelic gecko and a monkey with an "Elvis" hairdo are among 208 new species described last year by scientists in the Mekong River region of Southeast Asia, a conservation group announced Monday.

The animals were discovered in a biodiverse region that is threatened by habitat loss, deforestation, climate change and overdevelopment, the WWF said in a report.

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NASA at Work on 'Spearfishing' for Comets

The U.S. space agency is developing a high-tech harpoon that could one day pierce a comet and grab samples for scientists on Earth to study for hints about how the universe formed.

The idea borrows on a concept developed by the European Space Agency but adds a sample chamber to the spear so it can capture dust from a fast-moving, ice-spewing comet by hovering near it and launching the space harpoon.

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