Can we start mapping the surfaces of distant planets?
As of 2 January 2013, astronomers state that the Milky Way Galaxy may contain as many as 400 billion exoplanets, with almost every star hosting at least one planet.
Milky Way Galaxy (NASA)
Over 860 distant exoplanets so far have been identified, and we know the atmospheric composition of many of these planets from their spectral shifts. But can we actually see landmass and oceans? Not yet but soon!
Space scientist Nicolas Cowan says he knows how to do it.
ASA/JPL-Caltech/UMD/GSFC EPOXI | EPOXI
Extrasolar cartography' technique could provide rough pictures of alien worlds.
Astronomers could one day create rough maps of far-away planets using information taken from starlight reflection, determining the balance of oceans, lands and overhanging clouds.