Introduction: Strange Planets

Dim house lights. 
Bring out stars.
Fade music. 

Hello, and welcome to the ________ Planetarium. Our program is called Strange Planets.
But of course, strange is in the eye of the beholder.
Any planet might seem strange.

We have eight planets in the Solar System, all very different and each strange in its own way.
We know at least one has life—Earth, a strange planet, partly because of all the strange people on it.

Are there places other than Earth that could have life?

[Accept answers and encourage discussion with other questions.]

We use the word habitable for a place that can support life. 

People have long wondered…are we alone? 

Point towards starry sky.

If there are a lot of other planets circling stars out there beyond the Solar System, we could greatly expand the possibilities for finding habitable places.

There HAVE been planets discovered around other stars.
They are called extra-solar planets or exoplanets for short.

Fade on images of exoplanets.

Do you know how many exoplanets have been discovered?

[Accept answers. As of September 2021, “over 4,500” is correct. See The Extrasolar Planets Encyclopedia at or the New Worlds Atlas at the PlanetQuest website — to find current number.]

If possible, show live or recent screenshot of the PlanetQuest New Worlds Atlas page that has up-to-date exoplanet count:
If correct answer is not given:
Raise your hand if you think there has been at least 1 planet discovered?
More than 10?
More than 100?
More than 1000? 

We’ve discovered over 4,500  [use current planet count] planets outside of our solar system.
Most of the extrasolar planets discovered have been quite large—the size of Jupiter or even bigger. A major breakthrough in discoveries of thousands of exoplanets came with the NASA Kepler Mission.

VISUAL 1a (optional movie): Kepler Launch

Show movie of Kepler spacecraft launch (2009 March 6) and animation of dust cover ejection (2009 April 7). Alternatively, show some combination of the launch, deployment, and/or dust cover ejection.
VISUAL 1b (optional movie): Dust Cover Ejection
DIGITAL EFFECT: Kepler Mission
Fade on and scale up an image of the Kepler spacecraft, as well as the constellation outline for Cygnus and the Kepler field of view target area.

NASA’s Kepler Mission launched in March of 2009.
When its dust cover was ejected, it started collecting data on the brightness of 100,000 stars.
It is designed to detect evidence of planets that are roughly the size of the Earth and suitable for life!

DIGITAL EFFECT: End Kepler Mission
Fade off the Kepler spacecraft and Cygnus and field of view images.