i was looking at Google-sky, and thinking of the emerging digital map of the universe and thought "wouldn't it be interesting to see this map in sci-fi shows instead of the artistic renders were used to see in space opera"..
but then add to that the planetary finder telescopes currently in production:
we're going to have planets with little spectrography analysis of of there mas and maybe with the next-gen telescopes also there atmospheres... and that's about it. it will be like the people first seen mars through a telescope and speculating what might be there... except with a lot more planets.
why not use this? what about a space opera in which every season visits the planetary systems discovered in RL in the year prior to that seasons production?
the series doesn't have to be completely hard-science in nature but but the places it will visit will be speculations about places which are real.