Second Earth among 750 new planetary candidates?

On station for a mere 43 days in its Earth-trailing orbit, the space telescope Kepler has logged more than 750 planetary candidates, which would double, should the initial evidence be confirmed by ground based telescopes, the known catalog of exoplanets.

Think about this. Prior to the 1990's, our clutch of gas giants and rocky worlds was the only one known to exist in the vast depths of the universe.

The planet hunter is staring unblinkingly at a 145,000 suns in its field of view, looking for the telltale regular dips in starlight that would indicate that the star hosts transiting companions. Its stated goal: to find Earth-like, or rocky, worlds, in promising orbits.

So finding 750 new planets in just a few days on the job is impressive. At this pace of discovery, it's not unreasonable to believe sometime in the next three or so years one of Kepler's hauls will raise goose bumps among astronomers as their follow-up observations strongly suggest one history-changing fact about one particular planetary find.

It rains.

Wayne

Image: NASA/ESA