In the 1970s, humans transmitted their first message to extraterrestrials in space. Known as the Arecibo Message, the transmission was a binary-coded communication containing basic relevant information, including a stick figure of a person, representations of DNA, our solar system, and a graph of the telescope that sent it. The message was sent as a radio signal to a target about 25,000 light-years away.
Now, after 50 years of technological advancements, NASA researchers have updated this message in a preliminary study posted on the arXiv preprint server. (The article has not yet been peer reviewed.)
“We want to send a message in a bottle out into the cosmic ocean, to say, ‘Hey, we’re here,'” said study author Jonathan Jiang, an astrophysicist at China’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). NASA in California. Live Scienceby Stephanie Pappas. “Even though we’re gone a few years later.”
The new post, called “Beacon in the Galaxy,” conveys more information about math and science; a map of the Earth; more detailed male and female human figures; the structure and composition of the Earth; and an invitation to respond. Like Arecibo’s post, the researchers created it as a bitmap, which is a way to use binary to create a pixelated image, for American Scientistby Daniel Oberhaus.
“The motivation for the design was to provide the maximum information about our society and the human species in the minimum message,” Jiang said. American Scientist. “With the improvements in digital technology, we can do much better than the [Arecibo message] in 1974.”
But there is no guarantee that extraterrestrial life will understand the message or that those who listen to it will be peaceful. Some scientists, including theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, have warned against actively reaching out to other life forms, saying they might have no problem wiping out humanity.
“We don’t know much about extraterrestrials, but we do know about humans,” Hawking said in 2015. “If you look at history, contact between humans and less intelligent organisms has often been disastrous in their point of view, and encounters between civilizations with advanced versus primitive technologies have gone awry for the less advanced.
The authors make suggestions on when, where and how the message should be conveyed.
They propose that the message is sent to a region of the Milky Way about 13,000 light-years from the galactic center, by Gizmodois George Dvorsky. Previous research has shown that this area is “most likely to grow for life,” the authors write.
The researchers say the message should be broadcast on March 30 or October 4, when the Earth is at an optimal angle and should be sent from the SETI Institute’s Allen Telescope Array in California or the Five Hundred Meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST ) in China.
“The ultimate goal of this message is to start a dialogue with ETI [extraterrestrial intelligence]— no matter how far into the future that might happen,” the authors conclude. “Humanity has, we believe, a compelling story to share and a desire to know others – and now has the means to do so.”