The search for alien life has been a constant one — ever since we as a civilization started looking to the stars and wondering what existed beyond our own planet. Now, interest has been renewed in the SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) — and one of the world’s most renowned scientists is lending his support to the project.

On Monday, physicist Stephen Hawking spoke to the Royal Society in London on how the potential for researching the possibility of life on other planets is greater than ever before. “We believe that life arose spontaneously on Earth, so in an infinite universe there must be other occurrences of life,” he said. Hawking went on to back the $100 million research effort being funded by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner dedicated solely to the purpose of discovering extraterrestrial life.

The project is called Breakthrough Initiatives, and over the course of 10 years it will fund the usage of two powerful telescopes: the Parkes Telescope in Australia and the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia. Both super-powered devices could allow scientists to collect much more astronomical data in a day than they might have been able to in the span of a year. Per the official website, the initiative “will include a survey of the 1,000,000 closest stars to Earth. It will scan the center of our galaxy and the entire galactic plane. Beyond the Milky Way, it will listen for messages from the 100 closest galaxies.”

“There has never been a better moment for a large-scale international effort to find life in the Universe. As a civilization, we owe it to ourselves to commit time, resources, and passion to this quest,” read a message posted on the site, which was signed not only by Milner, but also by Hawking and several other notable figures, including singer Sarah Brightman and actor Seth MacFarlane.

In addition, Breakthrough Initiatives has announced an international contest wherein they will award a pool of $1 million to the best digital entries that “represent humanity and planet Earth.” So if you’ve always wanted to tell any potential alien civilizations about how awesome Taylor Swift is, now is your best time!

[Featured image via Discovery Channel]