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Vampire Bats on the Run
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The hungry blob at the edge of the universe
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Dinosaurs and Fossils
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Catching Some Rays
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Finding the Past
Oldest Writing in the New World
Untangling Human Origins
Digging Up Stone Age Art
Nurse Sharks
Food and Nutrition
Chocolate Rules
Healing Honey
Eat Out, Eat Smart
GSAT English Rules
Problems with Prepositions
Finding Subjects and Verbs
Who vs. That vs. Which
GSAT Exam Preparation Jamaica
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Mastering The GSAT Exam
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Prime Time for Cicadas
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Math Naturals
Human Body
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Taste Messenger
Hermit Crabs
What Not to Say to Emerging Readers
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Children and Media
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Strange Universe: The Stuff of Darkness
Project Music
A Change in Leaf Color
Surprise Visitor
City Trees Beat Country Trees
Space and Astronomy
Killers from Outer Space
Witnessing a Rare Venus Eclipse
No Fat Stars
Technology and Engineering
Young Scientists Take Flight
Bionic Bacteria
Shape Shifting
The Parts of Speech
Adjectives and Adverbs
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How to Fly Like a Bat
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Polar Ice Feels the Heat
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Cousin Earth

As their search continues, astronomers are finding more and more planets orbiting nearby stars. This time, they've detected a solid planet that's just 15 light-years from Earth. Many details about the planet remain unknown because the astronomers didn't see it directly. Instead, they were able to detect how the planet's gravity makes its star wobble a little bit. Out of 156 planets discovered so far in other solar systems, the new extrasolar planet is the smallest one yet found. It's about 7.5 times heavier than Earth. Along with two, much bigger planets, the new world orbits a star called Gliese 876. The planet takes just 1.9 days to complete an orbit around Gliese 876. So, its year is much, much shorter than ours. It's so close to its star that its surface is hot enough to roast a chicken. Most extrasolar planets that have been found so far are big balls of gas, like Jupiter and Saturn. Because the planet's mass is low, it probably couldn't hold onto much gas. So, scientists suspect that it's rocky. "This could be the first [known] rocky planet around any normal star other than the sun," says team member Jack Lissauer of NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif. Scientists are still trying to figure out how rocky planets might form so close to their stars. Whatever the answer, the new discovery gives researchers confidence that they will one day find even closer cousins to Earth somewhere in the universe. And, on a planet resembling Earth, they might also discover traces of life as we know it.—E. Sohn

Cousin Earth
Cousin Earth

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