Should Earthlings blast out our location to the cosmos

Sending new messages

Nearly half a century after the Arecibo message, two international teams of astronomers are planning new attempts at alien communication. One is using a giant new radio telescope, and the other is choosing a compelling new target.

One of these new messages will be sent from the world’s largest radio telescope, in China, sometime in 2023. The telescope, with a 1,640-foot (500-meter) diameter, will beam a series of radio pulses over a broad swath of sky. These on-off pulses are like the 1s and 0s of digital information.

The message is called “The Beacon in the Galaxy” and includes prime numbers and mathematical operators, the biochemistry of life, human forms, the Earth’s location and a time stamp. The team is sending the message toward a group of millions of stars near the center of the Milky Way galaxy, about 10,000 to 20,000 light-years from Earth. While this maximizes the pool of potential aliens, it means it will be tens of thousands of years before Earth may get a reply.

The other attempt is targeting only a single star, but with the potential for a much quicker reply. On Oct. 4, 2022, a team from the Goonhilly Satellite Earth Station in England will beam a message toward the star TRAPPIST-1. This star has seven planets, three of which are Earth-like worlds in the so-called “Goldilocks zone” – meaning they could be home to liquid and potentially life, too. TRAPPIST-1 is just 39 light-years away, so it could take as few as 78 years for intelligent life to receive the message and Earth to get the reply.

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