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A top Russian astronomer said on Monday that he expects humanity to encounter alien civilizations within the next 20 years.

According to the Interfax news agency, Andrei Finkelstein, director of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Applied Astronomy Institute, said "The genesis of life is as inevitable as the formation of atoms ... Life exists on other planets and we will find it within 20 years."

Finkelstein said 10 percent of the known planets circling stars in the galaxy resemble Earth.

He said while speaking at an international forum dedicated to the search for extraterrestrial life that if water can be found there, then so can life. He added that aliens would most likely resemble humans with two arms, two legs and a head.

"They may have different color skin, but even we have that," he said at the event.

The Russian Academy of Sciences' Applied Astronomy Institute runs a program launched in the 1960s to watch for and beam out radio signals to outer space.

"The whole time we have been searching for extraterrestrial civilizations, we have mainly been waiting for messages from space and not the other way," he said at the event.

Richard Hoover, an astrobiologist at NASA's Marshall space flight center in Alabama, caused controversy in March after claiming filaments and other structures in rare meteorites appear to be microscopic fossils of extraterrestrial beings.

He claimed the lack of nitrogen in the samples indicated they are "the remains of extraterrestrial life forms that grew on the parent bodies of the meteorites when liquid water was present, long before the meteorites entered the Earth's atmosphere." His work was published in the Journal of Cosmology.