Have to be honest, I'm a bit disappointed and baffled by some of this negativitry and cynicism towards Kepler. I don't know what more people want.
Thanks to Kepler, and the amazing science team behind it, we can all, after centuries of wondering and speculating and dreaming, go outside on the next clear night, look to the west and see Deneb standing there above the trees, with Vega gleaming to its right and know
that in the unremarkable-looking patch of sky between them there are at least, at least
, 15 alien planets orbiting some of those spilled salt stars. And although we absolutely don't know it for a fact, we know, thanks to Kepler, that there's a chance
that many, many
more of those stars might have worlds orbiting them too, including some perhaps the size of Earth, with some of those possibly
orbiting within their sun's habitable zone.
I know. Chance
... Not exactly conclusive, is it? But it's a start.
If we don't look we are guaranteed to find nothing. Kepler is
looking, and seeing incredible things, with many more incredible things to come, I'm sure.
We've pondered this for centuries, as a species, and I think it's a pretty safe bet that most of us here on this forum, at some point in our lives, have looked up at the sky, from a lonely hilltop, or a quiet beach, or just from our own back gardens, and wondered if there were worlds whirling around any of those distant suns too. Now we know - there are
. We know that one of those stars, even if it's invisible to our naked eyes, has six worlds spinning around it. Six! Doesn't that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up?
The "alien solar systems" we've all grown up with, on sci-fi shows like Star Trek, Babylon 5, Lost in Space, Dr Who, or on more factual programmes like Cosmos, Horizon, or whatever, have all been completely made up, invented, the products of great imaginations, the children of people with a passion for the amazing possibilities that exist Out There. Today we can actually study real alien solar systems, take images of planets waltzing around faraway stars. Before Kepler we were hesitantly dipping our toes in the cosmic ocean. Kepler is going to bring the waters of that ocean roaring up to us and over our feet and up to our knees, pour planets on us like a summer storm.
Yes, these observations and results are quite speculative. The Kepler team are very, VERY careful to use the term "candidates". But whether the Kepler FOV turns out to contain the frothy surf of thousands of worlds suggested by the most optimistic Kepler supporters, or 'just' a few hundred worlds, or even a just the fifteen we know about today, scattered across it like beads from a snapped necklace, that's an incredible
Rejoice in it!