BOSTON (Reuters) - Contact with extraterrestrials could be beneficial or might destroy the human race, according to an analysis of possible outcomes of an alien encounter that even one author of the study described as unlikely.

The scenarios are contained in a paper written by a trio of scientists dated in April and published in the journal Acta Astronautica that won media attention this week following an article published in a British newspaper.

The collection of possible outcomes, should earthlings meet beings from elsewhere, ranges from beneficial to harmful, according to the paper by Seth Baum, a doctoral candidate, and Jacob Haqq-Misra and Shawn Domagal-Goldman, both postdoctoral scholars.

Contact with extraterrestrials might lead to a discussion of math and science or helpful collaboration on solving serious issues like world hunger or poverty, the paper said.

In some of the more dire situations, the scientists said aliens could intentionally plan to eat or enslave people on earth.

Another possibility would be for extraterrestrials to destroy life on earth if they detected civilization was expanding too rapidly and could harm others. Evidence of humans destroying the environment could prompt such an attack.

Extraterrestrials could also harm earth through disease or by using technology, knowingly or unintentionally, they said.

The journal that published the study, Acta Astronautica, publishes articles on developments in space research. Baum is doing doctoral work at Pennsylvania State University, where Haqq-Misra is a post-doctoral research associate.

The other author, Domagal-Goldman, said in a blog post on Friday that while he believed contact with alien civilization was unlikely, researching the possibility was fun.

While there is still no detected form of extraterrestrial intelligence, the researchers said their review provided the groundwork for a more comprehensive plan to respond to alien contact should it ever occur.

(Reporting by Lauren Keiper, editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Cynthia Johnston)