Aliens have long been major players in science fiction and pop culture, but according to the Queen’s astronomer, Lord Martin Rees, scientists are now within 40 years of actually confirming their (non-fictional) existence.

At a speech last night to honor the renowned physicist Stephen Hawking’s new show, ‘Grand Design,’ Rees said that not only did he believe we were close to proving the presence of alien life, but that over the next four decades the importance of getting a tighter grip on where life comes from will grow exponentially. He insists that human beings are not the end of the line when it comes to evolution and that it is highly likely that unrecognizable alien life is already on Earth.

According to recent surveys, nearly 40 percent of the American population believe that aliens have already visited our planet, while nearly half believe the existence of aliens is absolutely possible.

Within the last year, scientists have discovered a total of six planets with environments that may be about to sustain life. Still, officials from the White House Office of Science and Technology say they have not yet found proof of the existence of extraterrestrials.

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