MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Are we still alone? Setting the stage for the next chapter in the quest to end cosmic loneliness, astronomers released a list on Monday of 4,034 objects they are 90 percent sure are planets orbiting other stars. The new list is the final and most reliable result of a four-year cosmic census of a tiny region of the Milky Way by NASA ’s Kepler spacecraft . “The search for planets is the search for life,” said Natalie Batalha, a Kepler mission scientist from NASA’s Ames Research Center. “These results will form the basis for future searches for life.” Extrapolated from one small patch to the entire sky, the data will help NASA design a space telescope for the 2030s or thereabouts, big and powerful enough to discern the images of planets around other stars. The catalog — the eighth in the endeavor — was released at a meeting of exoplanet astronomers here at the Ames Research Center that represents a last hurrah for the survey mission, which will end on Sept. 30. The space telescope itself is doing fine, and it has embarked on a new program of short-term searches called K2. Among other things, […]

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