Organization sends message to nearby exoplanet

Encoded in radio waves, message is designed for alien scientists.
By Laurel Kornfeld | Nov 18, 2017
An organization whose focus is searching for and communicating with extraterrestrial intelligence beamed a message in radio waves to a star system 12 light years away known to have a potentially habitable exoplanet.

Designed to be understood by extraterrestrial scientists, the message is the type we would want to receive from an alien civilization, according to Doug Vakoch, president and founder of Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence International (METI).

The idea of sending a message to a possibly habitable world was suggested to METI by the Barcelona Sonar Festival in Spain, an annual celebration of electronic and advanced music founded in 1994.

Titled "Sonar Calling GJ273b," the message, which features original musical compositions and a tutorial in basic math and science, was transmitted on three successive days in October from the Eiscat transmitter in Tromso, Norway, toward the star GJ273, also known as Luyten's Star.

Repeating the message three times will make it easier for anyone listening on the planet G273b to confirm the signal instead of viewing it as an anomaly.

"Given the largely negative impact of humanity on our planet, perhaps this is the best time to reach out to--hopefully superior--extraterrestrial intelligence to solicit help and advice on what we can do to change things," Sonar project directors wrote in a public statement.

"Sonar Calling is an attempt to rekindle a sense of global consciousness and a shared reflection on our collective present, that we hope will lead to new ideas and new partners. Yes, even alien ones," the statement noted.

Even though Proxima Centauri b is the closest potentially habitable exoplanet, GJ273b was chosen as the recipient instead because its parent star is visible from the Northern Hemisphere, which is also where the transmitter is located.

Next April, METI will send a followup message for which the antenna will be used to transmit pulses at various frequencies that will mimic a musical scale.

"By sending basic melodies at multiple radio frequencies, METI will expand its tutorial for Sonar Calling to describe the physics and psychology of music," the statement said.

An open call is being held to solicit original musical compositions from the public in any genre. Three of the submissions will be included in next year's message.

METI's communications are not the first of their kind sent into space, but they are the first to specifically target a star system that could host a habitable world.

Radio waves traveling at the universal speed of light will take slightly more than 12 years to reach the star. If there is anyone there to respond, their message will take the same amount of time to reach Earth, meaning it will arrive in about 25 years.

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