Successful launch of Kepler space telescope tonight. Kepler will stare at a patch of stars; over 100,000 stars, to look for flickering of the light. Flickering that might indicate planets passing across the face of the star as seen from Earth.
Very slight light winks.
Watching like a hawk, or even more intensely than a hawk, it will take an inventory of what's happening, wink and blink wise, around each of those 100,000 stars. Could be signs of orbiting planets even as small as Earth. Maybe even smaller.
They'll be able to tell more about planet size, distance from it's star and so forth. Getting an inventory of data points.
I think the first mission of this kind is the MOST satellite which, coincidentally, is based out of University of British Columbia not far from where I live.
UBC campus is a day's bike ride away from Bellingham up there in Vancouver, BC.
One other mission since MOST has a similar aim. France's Corot.
Kepler is, by far, the most powerful. We'll learn a lot.
Also this is a good way to create some jobs that are more interesting than serving coffee. How would you like that, with cream or sugar?