As noted over on 80 Beats, scientists using the Spitzer space telescope have found strong evidence that Epsilon Eridani has a solar system not unlike our own, with rocky planets orbiting in the inner solar system and gas giants orbiting further out.
Science fiction writers must have breathed a collective sigh of relief, as Epsilon Eridani has been used in countless novels, short stories, TV shows, and movies as the location of more-or-less Earth like planets. Nothing dates a science fiction story like the cold hand of reality, such as when Mars was revealed to be a cratered desert with not a canal in sight, or when the clouds of Venus were shown to be concealing a lethal landscape of shattered rock, rather than lush jungle swamps.
Space Opera is one of my favorite sub-genres of science fiction, and in recent years has gained a new lease of life (I recommend reading The New Space Opera anthology for good snapshot of the current state of affairs). Like all definitions, saying what exactly is and isn’t space opera can be a highly subjective exercise, but for me, works of space opera all try for a certain grand sweep: the canvas is broad, often involving a good chunk of at least one galaxy. The themes are big–space opera is where entire space-faring civilizations can collide–and awesome technologies are frequently brought into play.