"The team has discovered the most Earth-like planet yet…"

Small Rocky Planet Found Orbiting Normal Star: “Astronomers announced today the discovery of what is possibly the smallest planet known outside our solar system orbiting a normal star.

Its orbit is farther from its host star than Earth is from the Sun. Most known extrasolar planets reside inside the equivalent of Mercury’s orbit.

The planet is estimated to be about 5.5 times as massive as Earth and thought to be rocky. It orbits a red dwarf star about 28,000 light-years away. Red dwarfs are about one-fifth as massive as the Sun and up to 50 times fainter.” (space.com)

Annals of the New Dark Ages (cont’d.)

GOP sets up showdown over Alito: “The Senate’s top Republican decided Thursday to force a showdown on Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito early next week, with the two Democratic senators from Massachusetts pushing to block a vote.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist filed a motion to cut off debate on the Alito nomination after his Democratic counterpart, Minority Leader Harry Reid, objected to a move by GOP leaders to schedule a final vote on his confirmation Monday afternoon.

Frist’s motion, which requires 60 votes under Senate rules, will come up for a vote at 4:30 p.m. Monday. If successful, senators will then vote on Alito’s nomination at 11 a.m. Tuesday, with a simple majority of 51 votes needed for approval.

Frist’s move came as Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts was lobbying his Democratic colleagues to filibuster the Alito nomination — an uphill fight, given that none of the chamber’s 55 Republicans have opposed his confirmation and three Democrats are on the record supporting it.” (CNN)

Earlier versions of this story led with Kerry’s reported vow to filibuster, but that may have been wishful thinking on the media’s part. Kerry does not now appear so determined. The cloture vote and consequent confirmation are a much more anticlimactic way to go, and much more inevitable, given the loyal opposition’s spineless posturing (in an anatomical sense an oxymoron, but let’s not let that stop the Democrats).