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POSTED January 11, 2012 8:15 p.m.

MORE PLANETS THAN STARS?: WASHINGTON (AP) — The more astronomers look for other worlds, the more they find that it's a crowded and crazy cosmos. They think planets easily outnumber stars in our galaxy and they're even finding them in the strangest of places.
And they've only begun to count.
Three studies released Wednesday, in the journal Nature and at the American Astronomical Society's conference in Austin, Texas, demonstrate an extrasolar real estate boom. One study shows that in our Milky Way, most stars have planets. And since there are a lot of stars in our galaxy — about 100 billion — that means a lot of planets.
"We're finding an exciting potpourri of things we didn't even think could exist," said Harvard University astronomer Lisa Kaltenegger, including planets that mirror "Star Wars" Luke Skywalker's home planet with twin suns and a mini-star system with a dwarf sun and shrunken planets.
"We're awash in planets where 17 years ago we weren't even sure there were planets" outside our solar system, said Kaltenegger, who wasn't involved in the new research.
Astronomers are finding other worlds using three different techniques and peering through telescopes in space and on the ground.
Confirmed planets outside our solar system — called exoplanets — now number well over 700, still-to-be-confirmed ones are in the thousands.
CHINA, INDIA TO JUMP FORWARD WITH HAWAII TELESCOPE: HONOLULU (AP) — China and India are signing on as partners in a telescope that will be the world's largest when it's built at the summit of Hawaii's Mauna Kea volcano in 2018.
Their participation in the Thirty Meter Telescope will catapult the two nations to the forefront of astronomy research. It's the first time either nation has participated in such an advance telescoped anywhere.
As partners, China and India will pay a share of the construction cost, which is expected to top $1 billion. They will have a share of the observation time.
Shude Mao, an astrophysics professor at the National Astronomical Observatories of China, says China has lagged behind in observational astronomy, but the country has ambitious science goals and wants to catch up as fast as it can.
'PHANTOM' SHOW IN VEGAS TO CLOSE AFTER 6 YEARS: LAS VEGAS (AP) — The Phantom of Las Vegas is singing his final opera.
The Sin City version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Phantom of the Opera" is preparing for its final curtain call after a six-year run. Show officials announced Tuesday that the cast of "Phantom — The Las Vegas Spectacular" will give their last performance Sept. 2.
The amped up production set in a replica of the Paris Opera House is the latest victim of Nevada's struggling economy. Tourism-dependent Las Vegas holds the nation's highest unemployment rate and visitors are spending less than they did before the recession.
LA DEPUTY CHARGED IN BURRITO DRUG-SMUGGLING CASE: LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy says he's not guilty of smuggling drugs into a courthouse jail by hiding the narcotics in a burrito.
Prosecutors say 27-year-old Henry Marin entered the not guilty plea Wednesday on charges of bringing drugs into jail and conspiracy to commit a crime.
Marin is accused of conspiring with another person to transport drugs into the jail on Feb. 23, 2010. He has been relieved of duty without pay.
PENN STATE PRESIDENT FACES ALUMNI OVER SEX SCANDAL: PITTSBURGH (AP) — Penn State University President Rodney Erickson was grilled Wednesday by alumni unhappy about how the school handled a child sex abuse scandal, the firing of longtime football coach Joe Paterno and a lack of transparency over the case.
Erickson is attempting to repair the school's image with alumni, faculty, staff and students more than two months since former football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky's arrest brought controversy, criticism and contemplation to the school.
Some alumni have criticized the university's failure to conduct a complete investigation before firing Paterno and ousting Erickson's predecessor, Graham Spanier, while decrying the leadership as secretive and slow to act.
DRONE HELPING MISSION TO SHIP FUEL TO ALASKA TOWN” ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — As a Russian fuel tanker slowly moves through the frozen Bering Sea toward an iced-in city in western Alaska, it has been getting help from an unusual source at its destination: a drone that flies overhead and sends images of the sea ice to researchers onshore.
The camera-equipped drone looks like a smoke detector with wings and legs. It glides on 20-minute missions ranging from 10 feet to 320 feet above the ice, and its images can be instantly viewed on a tablet-type computer screen.
The tanker is bound for Nome, a town of 3,500 residents that missed its final pre-winter delivery of fuel by barge when a big storm swept the region last fall. Without the delivery of 1.3 million gallons, the city could run short of fuel before a barge delivery becomes possible in late spring.

 

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