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Researchers find 3 earth-sized planets which could bolster life

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LONDON — A group of researchers from the University of Cambridge on Monday said that they had found three Earth-like planets that are the best wager so far for discovering life outside solar system.

The planets orbit a dim and cool star 40 light years from Earth which could be the best place to start searching for extra-terrestrial life, according the researchers.

Researchers used a telescope at the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) La Silla Observatory in Chile, to see the star known as TRAPPIST-1, which is in the Aquarius group of stars, Xinhua reported.

TRAPPIST-1 is an ultra-cool dwarf star and as such is much cooler and redder than the Sun and is barely larger than Jupiter.

They found that this dim and cool star faded slightly at regular intervals, indicating that several objects were transiting or passing between the star and the Earth. Detailed analysis showed that there were three planets of a similar size with the Earth.
“The discovery of a planetary system around such a small star opens up a brand new avenue for research,” Professor Didier Queloz from the University of Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory said.

Such stars are very common in the Milky Way and very long-lived but this is the first time that planets have been found around one of them.

Despite being just 40 light years from the Earth, this star is too dim and too red to be seen with the naked eye or even with a large amateur telescope.

“Before this discovery it was not at all clear whether such a small star could host an Earth-sized planet. Nobody had seriously studied it, but now that’s likely to change,” said Professor Queloz.

“Systems around these tiny stars are the only places where we can detect life on an Earth-sized exoplanet with our current technology,” said Michael Gillon, from the University of Liege in Belgium, who co-authored a paper on the new discovery with Professor Queloz.

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Deadly Nipah virus claims 12 in Indian state of Kerala

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NEW DELHI — At least 12 people in India have died from a rare deadly and contagious virus known as Nipah virus, according to news reports.

Four deaths were reported on Monday, including of a nurse who treated the three initial infections at the EMS Cooperative Hospital in Perambra. The death of the nurse triggered panic among hospital staff who have had their leaves cancelled to treat the sick, Hindustan Times reported

Two deaths were reported from Kozhikode and four from Malappuram district. At least six persons are in critical condition and another 20 are under observation, state health officials said.

It was recorded in Siliguri district in West Bengal in 2001 and is being suspected in Kerala now, according to media reports

Humans get infected by consuming fruit or date-palm sap contaminated by infected bats but while human-to-human transmission through body fluids is rare.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Nipah virus infection is an emerging disease that was first identified in 1999 during an outbreak among pig farmers in Malaysia and Singapore.

The virus is thought to naturally infect fruit bats (of the genus Pteropus), but it can also infect pigs and other domesticated animals, as well as humans, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The virus can also spread from person to person.

CDC says Nipah virus can cause an inflammation of the brain known as encephalitis. Symptoms can include fever and headache, followed by drowsiness, disorientation and confusion. People who are infected with the virus may fall into a coma within 48 hours of showing symptoms, the CDC says.

The virus can be highly lethal, with an average fatality rate of around 75 percent, according to the WHO.

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