Newly discovered planets may boost search for life beyond Earth

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. The discovery of three planets that circle a small, dim star could bolster the chances of finding life beyond Earth, astronomers said on Monday.The Earth-sized planets are orbiting their parent star, located in the constellation Aquarius relatively close to Earth at 40 light years away, at a distance that provides the right amount of heat for there to be liquid water on their surface, a condition scientists believe may be critical for fostering life. The discovery marked the first time that planets were found orbiting a common type of star known as an ultra-cool dwarf, the scientists said."If we want to find life elsewhere in the universe, this is where we should start to look," Michael Gillon of the University of Liege in Belgium, lead author of the research published in the journal Nature, said in a statement. The discovery was made using Europe's Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope, or TRAPPIST, located at the La Silla Observatory in Chile. The telescope finds planets by looking for changes in the amount of light coming from a star that may be caused by a planet passing by the telescope's line of sight. The smaller the background star, the easier it is to detect and measure these transiting planets. Though the newly found planets are about the size of Earth, their host star is just 8 percent of the size of the sun and less than a half a percent as bright, the scientists said.So far, astronomers have found more than 2,000 planets beyond the solar system and are developing techniques to scan planets' atmospheres for gases related to biological activities. (Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Will Dunham)

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Astronomers find a tailless comet, first of its kind

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. Astronomers have found a first-of-its-kind tailless comet whose composition may offer clues into long-standing questions about the solar system's formation and evolution, according to research published on Friday in the journal Science Advances.The so-called "Manx" comet, named after a breed of cats without tails, was made of rocky materials that are normally found near Earth. Most comets are made of ice and other frozen compounds and were formed in solar system's frigid far reaches.Researchers believe the newly found comet was formed in the same region as Earth, then booted to the solar system’s backyard like a gravitational slingshot as planets jostled for position.Scientists involved in the discovery now seek to learn how many more Manx comets exist, which could help to resolve debate over exactly how and when the solar system settled into its current configuration. "Depending how many we find, we will know whether the giant planets danced across the solar system when they were young, or if they grew up quietly without moving much," paper co-author Olivier Hainaut, an astronomer with the European Southern Observatory in Germany, said in a statement.The new comet, known as C/2014 S3, was discovered in 2014 by the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System, or Pan-STARRS. This network of telescopes scours the night-time skies for fast-moving comets, asteroids and other celestial bodies.Typically comets coming in from the same region as the Manx grow bright tails as they approach the sun, the result of ice vaporizing off their bodies and gleaming in reflected sunlight. But C/2014 S3 was dark and virtually tailless when it was spotted about twice as far away from the sun as Earth. Later analysis showed that instead of ices typically found on comets, the Manx comet contained materials similar to the rocky asteroids located in a belt between Mars and Jupiter. And C/2014 S3 appeared pristine, an indication that it had been in the solar system's deep freeze for a long time, said University of Hawaii astronomer Karen Meech, the lead author. The discovery of additional Manx comets could help scientists to refine computer models used to simulate the solar system's formation, Meech said. (Reporting by Irene Klotz; editing by Letitia Stein and Diane Craft)

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Facebook hit with lawsuit over plan to issue new stock

SAN FRANCISCO A Facebook Inc (FB.O) shareholder filed a proposed class action lawsuit on Friday in a bid to stop the company's plan to issue new Class C stock, calling the move an unfair deal to entrench Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg as controlling shareholder.The lawsuit, filed in the Delaware Court of Chancery, followed the social networking company's announcement on Wednesday of its plan to issue the shares.The rejiggering of Facebook's share structure is effectively a 3-for-1 stock split. Zuckerberg's said in December that he intends to put 99 percent of his Facebook shares into a new philanthropy project focusing on human potential and equality.The lawsuit contends that a Facebook board committee which approved the share deal "did not bargain hard" with Zuckerberg "to obtain anything of meaningful value" in exchange for granting Zuckerberg added control. In a statement, Facebook said the plan "is in the best interests of the company and all stockholders." The company has said keeping Zuckerberg at the helm is key to its future success.Facebook plans to create a new class of shares that are publicly listed but do not have voting rights. Facebook will issue two of the so-called "Class C" shares for each outstanding Class A and Class B share held by shareholders. Those new Class C shares will be publicly traded under a new symbol. Zuckerberg "wishes to retain this power, while selling off large amounts of his stockholdings, and reaping billions of dollars in proceeds," the lawsuit said."The issuance of the Class C stock will, in effect, have the same effect as a grant to Zuckerberg of billions of dollars in equity, for which he will pay nothing," it said. Google settled a lawsuit in 2013 shortly before trial which cleared the way for that company to execute a similar plan. (Reporting by Dan Levine; Editing by Bernard Orr and Tom Brown)

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Astronomers find a tailless comet, first of its kind

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. Astronomers have found a first-of-its-kind tailless comet whose composition may offer clues into long-standing questions about the solar system's formation and evolution, according to research published on Friday in the journal Science Advances.The so-called "Manx" comet, named after a breed of cats without tails, was made of rocky materials that are normally found near Earth. Most comets are made of ice and other frozen compounds and were formed in solar system's frigid far reaches.Researchers believe the newly found comet was formed in the same region as Earth, then booted to the solar system’s backyard like a gravitational slingshot as planets jostled for position.Scientists involved in the discovery now seek to learn how many more Manx comets exist, which could help to resolve debate over exactly how and when the solar system settled into its current configuration. "Depending how many we find, we will know whether the giant planets danced across the solar system when they were young, or if they grew up quietly without moving much," paper co-author Olivier Hainaut, an astronomer with the European Southern Observatory in Germany, said in a statement.The new comet, known as C/2014 S3, was discovered in 2014 by the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System, or Pan-STARRS. This network of telescopes scours the night-time skies for fast-moving comets, asteroids and other celestial bodies.Typically comets coming in from the same region as the Manx grow bright tails as they approach the sun, the result of ice vaporizing off their bodies and gleaming in reflected sunlight. But C/2014 S3 was dark and virtually tailless when it was spotted about twice as far away from the sun as Earth. Later analysis showed that instead of ices typically found on comets, the Manx comet contained materials similar to the rocky asteroids located in a belt between Mars and Jupiter. And C/2014 S3 appeared pristine, an indication that it had been in the solar system's deep freeze for a long time, said University of Hawaii astronomer Karen Meech, the lead author. The discovery of additional Manx comets could help scientists to refine computer models used to simulate the solar system's formation, Meech said. (Reporting by Irene Klotz; editing by Letitia Stein and Diane Craft)

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Java.net and Kenai Shutting Down: Why?

Oracle recently announced that Java.net and Kenai.com will be "going dark" one year from now. The brief announcement offers nothing even close to resembling an explanation and is the equivalent of "We've closed our storage facility. Come pick up your stuff!"The second paragraph of the announcement is a particuarly touching send-off for the many years Java devs spent using the sites — I think it's the use of ALL CAPS that really warms the heart of the Java community:"SHOULD YOU REQUEST YOUR PROJECT ASSETS, ORACLE PROVIDES SUCH PROJECT ASSETS “AS-IS” WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY OR FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. IN ADDITION, ORACLE SHALL NOT BE LIABLE FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO RELIANCE, COVER, OR LOSS OF ANTICIPATED PROFITS, EVEN IF YOU HAVE BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES, OR ANY OTHER DAMAGES RELATING IN ANY WAY TO SUCH PROVISION OF PROJECT ASSETS UNDER ANY LEGAL THEORY, WHETHER CONTRACT, TORT, PRODUCT LIABILITY, BREACH OF IMPLIED DUTY, OR OTHERWISE."The question on the minds of those reading the news is "Why?". I can't imagine that Oracle is having any issues keeping the lights on or finding the space to store everything. They still have computers and stuff? And programmer people?Of course there are other places where the Java community can go, but why should they have to? Instead of closing those sites down, might it be preferable to (and I'm just spitballin' here)...I don't know... make them better?Instead of taking down sites that have some history, community goodwill, and even emotional attachment within the Java community, why don't you modernize them and make them competitive with the other sites competing for their attention?I'm sure there will be some saying "good riddance" and others who didn't even know what Java.net or Kenai.com even offered. It just feels like another swipe from Oracle that they may not be all that interested in Java's future. Thoughts, anyone?

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