Does anyone really know how the human race would react if aliens suddenly arrived on Earth?
Some experts think we're not ready.
"It's going to be pandemonium. People will be glued to their televisions, some will freak out and you can expect a variety of responses," said Florida Institute of Technology astrophysicist Hakeem Oluseyi. "Some people will gain religion and some will lose their religion. Everything is going to change in terms of how we see the world and our place in it."
Those questions are at the heart of the third season premiere of "Alien Encounters," which airs Tuesday night on Science Channel. The series combines dramatizations and interviews with real scientists as they speculate on the possibility of contact between humans and aliens.
Watch this trailer for "Alien Encounters":
Tuesday's episode explores the scenario of a huge alien mothership exploding above Earth, raining space trash and a flu-like virus onto us, resulting in alien/human hybrid babies with strange powers.
"Something like an alien civilization arriving means other intelligent species, and we will know that we're not alone," Oluseyi told The Huffington Post. "This is as profound as learning that Earth was not the center of the universe in the time of Galileo. It's really going to open our minds to a whole other world of possibilities. I think we're going to see ourselves differently as a species."
Oluseyi, one of several prominent scientists featured in "Alien Encounters," is currently involved in research that may usher in an era of new propulsion systems for spaceships. Such technology could eventually be used to take humans from Earth to other Earth-like planets.
"Just as we could have regional differences within our own country," he said, "in times of serious crises ... we'll all come together if something like [the arrival of an alien race] happens, and we'll see ourselves as Earthlings and recognize how precious our little island home is."
This concept of banding together in the face of extraterrestrials arriving on Earth is something that even President Ronald Reagan mentioned during a speech at the United Nations in 1987.
"I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world," Reagan told the U.N. General Assembly.
One important reason to look for another planet capable of supporting human life, Oluseyi said, is that eventually we may no longer be able to survive on good old Mother Earth.
"It's really clear that in this universe, either you learn to leave your planet or you're going [to end up] extinct -- that's pretty much your choice," he told HuffPost. "Planets are temporary, stars are temporary and survival of life depends on adaptability."
"The universe is designed -- because stars and planets are temporary -- to select for those species that can leave their planet and colonize," Oluseyi went on. "All others will go extinct in this universe over the long term."
"Alien Encounters" premieres Tuesday on Science Channel at 10 p.m. Check your local listings for more information.