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ASTRONOMY Earth has distant relatives

Astronomers have discovered eight new planets circling nearby stars, including three Jupiter-sized ones with circular orbits similar to those of the Earth and Mars.

A report from Britain's Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council described the planets as "second cousins" to Earth. The discoveries brought to 74 the number of "extra-solar" planets - those found outside our solar system. The newest finds were made by a team of astronomers from Britain, the United States, and Belgium. The first was discovered by a Swiss team in 1995. Most extra-solar planets heretofore discovered have eccentric orbits that bear little kinship to those in the solar system.

NATURE Scrambled or sunny side up?

A North Carolina State University graduate student has discovered the nearly hatched remains of a dinosaur embryo inside an egg found 30 years ago.

It languished at Auburn University until James Lamb borrowed it for a research project and noticed three tiny leg bones sticking out.

Using a technique called computed tomography, he scanned the egg and found that it contained fossilized yolk as well as the remains of what he described as the 83 million-year-old embryo of a Lophorhothon, a duck-billed dinosaur that lived in prehistoric Alabama.

Effort to end sandstorms

BEIJING- China is planning to spend 56.8 billion yuan ($6.8 billion) in an effort to end sandstorms around Beijing ahead of the 2008 Olympic Games there, state press said Tuesday.

Northern China has been plagued in recent years by sandstorms attributed to expanding deserts caused by forrest clearing.

The project will include the transformation of 1 million hectares (2.5 million acres) of farmland into either forest or grassland, the report said.

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