Birmingham looks set for a close encounter of the third kind this year.
The city is to become the only UK venue outside London to host a major exhibition about alien life forms before it heads off on an international tour.
The Science of Aliens, which will arrive at Millennium Point's Thinktank at Easter, is billed as the "biggest and most in-depth exhibition to examine the possibility of life on other worlds".
It has pulled in huge crowds at London's Science Museum where it is currently based until February 26.
Millennium Point refused to confirm the smash-hit show is destined for Birmingham while final negotiations take place.
But Juliet Rees, head of publicity for The Science of Aliens, said: "Birmingham will be the first stop on its world tour.
"It is a major coup for Birmingham because the city is getting it before it goes to Paris and then round the world."
Ms Rees said the exhibition had attracted visitors from all over the South of England and was likely to do the same in Birmingham for the North.
Richard Moss, deputy editor of Brighton-based 24 Hour Museum, an online facility promoting cultural institutions, said: "It would be excellent for Birmingham if it gets it. It is a big hit in London and still is."
Science of Aliens includes two alien worlds on giant interactive tables created by a team of planetary scientists, physicists and biologists.
One, called Blue Moon, features flying hunters called Kites and airborne giant "skywhales".
The other, Aurelia, is a world without seasons populated by small aquatic foragers and predators called "gulphogs".
The exhibit also explores our fascination with alien life in science fiction, through films such as Aliens, The Blob, ET and Predator.
Visitors are shown how evolution on Earth holds the key to what kind of life may be found on other planets, witness an "alien autopsy" and learn how scientists are searching for extra-terrestrial life.
They can even listen out for signs of alien life in space and write their own message to would-be aliens.
A ticket to The Science of Aliens was described by a national newspaper as one of the top 100 "must-haves" for Christmas 2005.
The exhibition fits well into Thinktank's remit, the East-side venue that replaced Birmingham's former Museum of Science and Industry.
Last year it successfully held the touring exhibition of BBC's Walking With Beasts series which featured realistic creatures from pre-history. Mike Dernie, spokesman for Millennium Point, said: "There is a commitment to have an annual major touring exhibition coming to Thinktank.
"We have the resources and the facilities for it. This exhibit will be a coup for Thinktank.
"It should be here for the Easter and it will be on through the summer. It is in the final stage of contract agreement. We are chomping at the bit to make an announcement - it should be in the next week or two."
Bosses at Thinktank believe the kudos of a world-beating exhibition coupled with the opening of its planetarium last December will help put the museum on the map.
Since launching in 2001, it has struggled to halt sliding attendance figures. In its first year, it attracted 230,000 visitors - 70,000 short of the projected 300,000 figure.
The following year, managers revised their attendance forecast to 250,000, but only 160,000 turned up.
A target of 180,000 for September 2003 to September 2004 was missed by more than 10,000.
Last year saw a turnaround, boosted by the Walking With Beasts attraction, with attendance 10,000 above the projected 170,000 visitors. ..SUPL: