The New York Times has a thoughtful story about the continuing search for new exoplanets – especially earthlike bodies.   We’ve come a long way from Clyde Tombaugh and the blink comparator, haven’t we?

from the Times:

“On Tuesday, astronomers operating NASA’s Kepler spacecraft will release a list of about 350 stars newly suspected of harboring planets, including five systems with multiple candidate planets. That data could dramatically swell the inventory of alien worlds, which now stands at 461.”

Interestingly, Kepler’s search method isn’t that far from what Clyde and the comparator were up to – only Kepler takes one image every six seconds and analyzes it digitally, looking for stars that dim – even minutely – as their planets pass in front of them.

Check out the NASA Kepler mission here.