A SCOTTISH university is offering a course that is out of this world – how to search for ET.
Edinburgh University will teach stargazers how to detect signs of life on planets orbiting other stars.
Students will also learn about what could happen if humans ever make contact with little green men.
The course – which goes by the grand title of Introduction to Astrobiology and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life – will be taught online.
The university is expecting applicants from all over our own planet to apply for the free, five week course.
Led by former NASA research associate, Professor Charles Cockell, the course is described as “fully academic” and offers a certificate to those who complete the training.
Professor Jeff Haywood, vice principal of the University of Edinburgh, described the course as being an “important area of study”.
He said: “This course is based on Professor Charles Cockell’s research with NASA and covers what is seriously interesting and important area of study.
“While you might have 100 students on campus, or 1000 on a distance learning course, here we’re talking about potentially 100,000 students.”
In the first two weeks of the course students will be taught about the origins of life and how beings survive in the extreme environments likely to be found on planets outside our own solar system.
The third week then centres on the possibility of life being discovered on other planets.
Many experts believe it is almost certain extraterrestrial life exists somewhere on the countless billions of planets orbiting other stars.
The final week then goes on to teach students about what to do if they make contact with alien intelligence and work out “who would represent Earth?”
Last week, new details emerged about an incident near Edinburgh in which aliens are said to have abducted two Scots.
Newly-released government papers showed how the MoD’s UFO desk investigated the 1992 incident on the A70 in which an ambulance technician and his friend said their car was intercepted by aliens.
Under hypnosis, the men “recalled” being taken aboard a UFO and examined before being released unharmed. The episode is the subject of a Hollywood movie, A70, due for release later this year.
Back on earth, Edinburgh University is the first UK educational establishment to sign up to the Coursera consortium – a group that also includes prestigious American universities such as Princeton and Stanford.
The aim is to provide Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and it is estimated that up to 100,000 students can enrole in the digital curriculum.
Professor Sir Timothy O’Shea, Principal of The University of Edinburgh said: “Enabling wider access to excellent higher education is part of the core mission of the University of Edinburgh.
“We are therefore excited to join with our peers in North America in the Coursera consortium to offer Massive Open Online Courses on topics in which we have particular strengths.”
As well as searching for aliens, other courses available are Equine Nutrition, Online Education and Digital Media, Critical Thinking in Global Challenges, Artificial Intelligence Planning, and the Introduction to Philosophy.