Is it time to send another message to intelligent aliens? Some scientists think so. | Live Science

Scientists have crafted a new message for any intelligent extraterrestrials that might be out there. And they want to know if they should send it.

The technology needed to send the message is not yet ready. And if and when the note is transmitted, it would take thousands of years for it to reach its destination. In other words, no one expects a return message from ET anytime soon. But the researchers behind the alien memo hope their insights will open up a dialogue about how to contact aliens and what to say — and how to immortalize humanity as a species.

“We want to send a message in a bottle out into the cosmic ocean, to say, ‘Hey, we’re here,'” said Jonathan Jiang, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California, “even though we We’re not here a few years later.”

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The message designed by Jiang and his team builds on previous missives that humanity has sent into space; in fact, the researchers timed the creation of the new message for the 50th anniversary of the Arecibo message, the first high-powered attempt to contact ET.

This 1974 message used binary code and conveyed information about humanity’s base 10 counting system, common highlights, and a map of the world. solar system. The new message, described in an article published in the preprint database arXiv, also encodes information in binary and describes the basic math, physics, and biology extraterrestrials would need to understand humans, including descriptions of DNA, amino acids, and glucose. It would also contain a map of Milky Waythe solar system and Earth itself, including information about the composition of the planet and its atmosphere.

The message is more advanced than its predecessors in several respects. First, his map of Earth’s location in the Milky Way is more accurate than that of Arecibo’s message. In this post, scientists tried to use the location of rotating stars called pulsars as signposts to locate Earth. But the positions of the pulsars are not sufficiently consistent over long periods, and these stars are not easily differentiated from each other in the vastness of the galaxy. Instead, Jiang and his team used globular star clusters in the Milky Way as landmarks on their proposed map. These spherical clusters of stars are bright and easily visible, and they have enough distinguishing characteristics to serve as useful signposts.

The researchers also included a one-of-a-kind timestamp so any aliens intercepting the message would know when it was sent. But how to transmit the time to an unknown extraterrestrial civilization which could have ways of measuring very different from those of Earth people?

The answer, said message co-designer Qitian Jin of Hanze University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands, lay in the hydrogen atom. Neutral hydrogen found in interstellar gas can enter a high-energy state after collisions with other atoms or electrons. After about 10 million years, one of these high-energy hydrogens undergoes a transition to a lower-energy state – an event called a spin-flip transition. This spin-flip transition provides a convenient universal time unit for communicating how long after the Big Bang the message was sent.

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“I think that’s pretty important, because if you think of it as a time capsule, when someone receives it, they know when it was sent,” Jin told Live Science. “So they can know our history. They can build on that.”

It might be possible to send multiple messages with updated timestamps and information, Jin added, so that a theoretical extraterrestrial civilization could learn more about Earth over time.

Sending and receiving

The search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) can be roughly divided into two methods: passive and active. In passive SETI, scientists use massive telescopes to listen or search for clues that intelligent life exists. These tips could include radio wavesinadvertently or deliberately sent by an extraterrestrial civilization.

Active SETI is all about sending signals. These efforts are much less common, and so far most have been largely tokenistic. In 1972 and 1973, the Pioneer spacecraft was launched with a pair of plaques featuring a line drawing of a man and a woman and symbols intended to show the origin of the craft. The plates were humanity’s first message designed to travel outside the solar system, but the chances of them being found in the vastness of space are miniscule.

In 1977, NASA launched a similar long-term effort on the Voyager spacecraft, the Golden Record. The disc contains music, animal sounds and spoken greetings in 55 languages. It was designed by a committee led by famed astronomer Carl Sagan and inspired the current team of researchers, said Kristen Fahy, a science systems engineer at JPL and co-designer of the new message.

“Following this has really been nothing but an honor,” Fahy told Live Science. The new message includes a line drawing of a man and woman similar to those on the Pioneer plates, but with a more egalitarian twist: whereas only the man in 1970s versions raised his hand in greeting, the and woman are waving hello in modern illustration.

Arecibo’s message, unlike Pioneer and Voyager, was a ground effort. It was sent to the globular star cluster M13 in 1974 from the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico, mostly as a token effort. This message is still en route to its intended destination; Since M13 is 25,000 light-years away, it has traveled only about 0.2 percent of the distance it needs to travel, Jiang and his colleagues wrote in their paper.

The newly proposed message would be broadcast to a ring of stars about 13,000 light-years from the center of the Milky Way, Jiang told Live Science. This region is thought to contain a number of planets in the habitable areas of their stars, he says.

“If there are aliens, they are more likely to be there,” he said.

The Arecibo telescope no longer exists; it collapsed in 2020 and then was demolished. The telescopes most likely to carry the message are the Five Hundred Meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope in Guizhou, China, also known as the Tianyan Telescope, and the Allen Telescope Array in Northern California, which was designed to search for extraterrestrial signals. None of the telescopes can transmit messages at this time — they can only receive them — but transmission capabilities could be added in future updates, Jiang said.

The researchers hope to spark a conversation about what information to send to extraterrestrials and rekindle interest in listening to the messages. Humans already broadcast radio, television and radar signals into space – a communications bubble that likely spans around 200 light-years, according to The planetary society. It’s not far off – but the bubble will continue to grow, and the impression humanity is giving off may not be the best, said Stuart Taylor, an astrophysicist at the SETI Institute who helped craft the new message.

“It would probably be better, since they’re going to listen to us anyway, to send a positive message,” Taylor told Live Science. The hope, he said, is that an alien civilization advanced enough to reach the stars would be very cooperative – the “galaxy’s bonobos” – and have good advice for Earthlings on how to reconcile our differences. said Taylor, referring to the relatively peaceful primate relative of chimpanzees.

“We’re sort of the ‘fighting’ chimpanzee civilization,” Taylor said. “Some other civilizations may have a fundamentally more peaceful personality, such as bonobos.”

Originally posted on Live Science.

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