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Pillinger was everyone's favourite eccentric scientist

As the face and driving force behind British attempts to explore Mars, Professor Colin Pillinger became everyone's favourite eccentric British scientist. Today, on news of his death, at the age of 70, his successes and even his heroic failures were remembered and celebrated.

His friend, and ITV News Science Editor, Lawrence McGinty, reports on the man with the stand-out side burns and burning enthusiasm for space:

Read: Planetary scientist Professor Colin Pillinger dies aged 70

Family: Pillinger death 'devastating and unbelievable'

The family of planetary scientist Professor Colin Pillinger told the BBC his death was "devastating and unbelievable".

Planetary scientist Professor Colin Pillinger died today aged 70. Credit: Johnny Green/PA Wire

The pioneering scientist, who was best known for the ill-fated Beagle 2 mission to Mars, became a professor in interplanetary science at the Open University in 1991.

He also earned a host of other qualifications and numerous awards during his prestigious career.

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Prof Pillinger best known for ill-fated Mars mission

Planetary scientist Professor Colin Pillinger, who died today aged 70, was most famous for the ill-fated Beagle 2 mission to Mars.

Professor Colin Pillinger with the Beagle 2 landing craft in 2002. Credit: Tim Ockenden/PA Archive

The craft was supposed to land on the planet on Christmas Day 2003 and search for signs of life but vanished without a trace.

It was last seen heading towards the red planet on December 19 after separating from its European Space Agency mothership Mars Express.

Afterwards Prof Pillinger spoke of his frustration at the failed probe, and said there was nothing that should not have worked.

Professor Colin Pillinger suffered brain haemorrhage

Pioneering scientist Professor Colin Pillinger, who was the driving force behind Britain's Mars lander Beagle 2, suffered a brain haemorrhage at his home in Cambridge.

Pioneering scientist Professor Colin Pillinger. Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Archive

The professor, who was awarded the CBE in 2003, later died in hospital, a spokesman said.

Bacteria use 'sophisticated language' to communicate

Biochemist Natalia Sandetskaya places bacteria onto a petri dish at the Frauenhof Institute for Cell Therapy, 2013. Credit: PA/Peter Endig

Common bacteria found in water and soil talk to each other using language in much the same way as we do, scientists have discovered.

The bugs display a level of "combinatorial" communication previously thought to be unique to humans and certain other primates, which involves using two signals together to transmit a message that is distinct from them both.

Until now this type of communication had only been observed in humans and their closest relatives. However, the study published in the Public Library Of Science ONE found that the Psuedomonas aeruginosa microbe is similarly capable using chemicals instead of words.

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Kepler-186f planet 'could support life'

An Earth-like planet confirmed by Nasa in the habitable zone around the Kelper-186 star has 'potential' to host liquid water - one of the pre-requisites for life as we know it to exist.

Watch: Discovery demonstrates Earth-like planets 'are out there'

An artist's impression of the Kepler-186f planet. Credit: Nasa

More: Nasa confirms first earth-sized 'Goldilocks Planet'

Scientists discover 'Earth-like' planet

The new planet, dubbed Kepler-186f, was discovered using NASA's Kepler telescope. Credit: NASA

Scientists scouring the sky have discovered an 'Earth-like' planet in the habitable zone.

The new planet, dubbed Kepler-186f, was discovered using NASA's Kepler telescope, which was launched in March 2009 to search for Earth-sized planets in our corner of the Milky Way Galaxy.

A habitable zone planet orbits its star at a distance where any water on the planet's surface is likely to stay liquid. Since liquid water is critical to life on Earth, many astronomers believe the search for extraterrestrial life should focus on planets where liquid water occurs.

"Some people call these habitable planets, which of course we have no idea if they are," astronomer Stephen Kane said. "We simply know that they are in the habitable zone, and that is the best place to start looking for habitable planets."

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