For much of the past century, the realm of alien conspiracy theories has been inhabited primarily by academics and recluses, both widely dismissed as crackpots. Despite the billions of dollars poured into its space program, the American government has never even openly discussed the issue. But with the scientific community suddenly coming around to the premise of alien life, is this suddenly a legitimate dialogue?

Over the past year or so, more and more reputable scientists have begun voicing their opinions on extraterrestrial life, legitimizing the kind of discussions previously indigenous to internet chat rooms. The single-biggest contribution to the scientific argument for alien life may have just recently come from noted astrophysicist and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Stephen Hawking. In a recent documentary film, Hawking doesn’t simply share his depiction of alien life, but strongly urges against engaging them. In the Discovery Channel documentary, Hawking refers to these aliens as “nomads looking to conquer and colonize.” And in one sound bite, a concept considered half-baked by many so-called “experts” may have just been validated.

Hawking isn’t the first high-profile scientist to attest to the existence of aliens. Late last year, Lachezar Filipov, director of the Space research Institute of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, stated that aliens were already living around us and watching us without malice or hostility. Part of an Academy publication regarding communicating with other life forms, the ideas espoused by Filipov proved quite controversial among Bulgarian politicians. A toned-down version of this theory was revealed in January by Arizona State University physicist Paul Davies, who believes that some microbes on our planet may be derived from alien civilizations. Shortly after Davies’ public assertion, Cardiff University professor Chandra Wickramasinghe claimed there was new research showing that human life started somewhere other than the planet earth.

In the past year, the search for alien life has become a growing fascination for the scientific community, even resulting in an alien conference hosted at Cambridge University. Part of the reason for this sudden engagement from the scientific community comes from new technology enabling a more-thorough search for other habitable zones in the cosmos. While scientists were previously railing against the idea of alien life forms, the past year alone has seen a variety of scientifically-based alien theories. With this division between science and Star Trek suddenly evaporating, your UFO skepticism could start becoming downright ignorant.