A few quotes from this
Universe Today piece:
The discovery of 1235 new extrasolar planet candidates was announced today (Feb.2) by NASA and Kepler scientists at a media briefing. 68 of these planet candidates are Earth-sized. Another 288 are Super-Earth-size, 662 are Neptune-size and 165 are Jupiter-size. Most of these candidates orbit stars like our sun.
Even more significant is that 54 of the planet candidates are located within the ‘habitable zone’ of their host stars and 5 of those are Earth-sized. Before today we knew of exactly ZERO Earth-sized planets within the habitable zone. Now there are 5.
These remarkable new planet discoveries are based on observations from only the first four months of Kepler’s telescopic operations – May 12, 2009 to Sept. 17, 2009. The space based observatory continuously monitors more than 156,000 stars using 42 CCD detectors with a field of view that covers only 1/400 of the sky.
By the way, there's a YouTube video all about life elsewhere. Click on the picture to open the video in a new page/tab:
Won't win any Grammys but it gets several facts across.
Hmm, getting any old 42 CCD detectors together and some optics to put in front of them wouldn't be too difficult but getting the quality of data needed might be a problem, especially at the bottom of a turbulent atmosphere, and somehow I don't think they'd perform quite so well as those in the picture, fabricated by e2v
. Fantasy aside, five Earth sized planets in the habitable zone out of 156,000 stars may not sound like much but after just four months of observation the chances are that or own Earth would be missed and the probability that the target solar system orbits line up so that any planets actually transit the face of the star is also really small, as illustrated by even our own Mercury and Venus usually failing to do so.
Anyway, the next time you look up at a star filled sky maybe it'll feel just a little different. Some of those stars you are seeing may be just the tiniest bit dimmer than usual because an Earth sized planet in the habitable zone is passing between that star and your eye.
On a final note, this isn't entirely off-topic for the forum as the SuperWASP
project is using Canon 200mm f/1.8 lenses in front of back-illuminated CCD sensors: