The director of one of the national observatories in the United States says that the search for intelligent life in other parts of the universe should be taken more seriously.
As Anthony Beasley told the BBC, there should be more government support for this field of research that has been rejected by those who have been funding government projects for decades.
His support for the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) marks a radical change in behavior in a field that until recently was considered a marginal science.
Beasley made these statements at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Seattle (USA).
Director of the US National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville, Virginia, he said that "it was time for SETI to step out of the shadows and properly integrate into all other areas of astronomy".
For decades, the search for aliens was considered a field of research at the limits of science.
Beasley's comments come at a time when one of SETI's private research funders announced that the Very Large Array (VLA) observatory in New Mexico will join efforts to detect signs of intelligent life in other universes.
With several antennas, the New Mexico VLA telescope is considered one of the best equipped in the world.
In the opinion of Andrew Siemion, director of the scientific initiative Breakthrough Listen, at the University of California, at the SETI Research Center in Berkeley, the incorporation of VLA will increase the chances of finding intelligent life by "10 or even 100 times".
"Now we are ready to do the most complete survey of the whole sky (in search of extraterrestrial intelligence) that has never been done before," Siemion told the BBC.
Equally important, according to the researcher, is the credibility that the participation of the VLA gives to this field of research.
"We would like to see a transformed SETI, which is no longer a small group of scientists and engineers in California, isolated from academia, to one that is an integral part of astronomy and astrophysics, like any other field of research."
Breakthrough Listen is a private capital project to seek intelligent extraterrestrial communications across the universe.
The project started in 2016, financed by billionaire Yuri Milner, in the amount of US $ 100 million (R $ 430 million, in current values).
Martin Rees, an astronomer in the UK, is director of the organization's international advisory group.
He told the BBC that since the billionaire Large Hadron Collider project had not yet achieved its goal of finding subatomic particles beyond current physics theory, governments should consider modest funding of a few million pounds for SETI.
"I would feel much more confident defending the SETI case than that of a particle accelerator," he said.
"SETI research is worthwhile, despite the low probability of success, because there is a lot at stake."
Is anyone there?
In the past, NASA, the American space agency, has financed the search for extraterrestrial intelligence with more than $ 10 million a year.
But funding was cut in 1993, after Senator Richard Bryan introduced new legislation, because he believed it was a waste of money.
"I hope this is the end of the Martian hunting season at the taxpayer's expense," said Bryan at the time.
Until 1993, NASA funded research to seek intelligent life off Earth.
Since then, there has been no significant public funding for SETI in the US or anywhere else in the world, although the search for evidence of simple organisms by the chemical signals they leave in the atmosphere of other worlds is receiving increasing support.
When the first planets orbiting distant stars were discovered, it was not known whether this was the general rule or not.
Today we know that this is the case (to date, about 4,000 planets have been discovered)
According to Siemion, it was this discovery that convinced many respectable scientists that the search for intelligent life in other worlds should be taken more seriously.
"When human beings look up at the night sky, they ask themselves 'is there anyone out there?' We now have the ability to answer that question and perhaps make a discovery that would be considered the most profound scientific discovery in human history. "