Should earthlings blow up our location in the cosmos

Sending new messages

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

One of these new messages will be sent by the world’s largest radio telescope, in China, sometime in 2023. The telescope, 1,640 feet (500 meters) in diameter, will emit a series of radio pulses on a wide strip 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 location of Earth, and a timestamp. The team sends the message to 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 extraterrestrials, it means it will be tens of thousands of years before Earth receives a response.

The other attempt targets only one star, but with the potential for a much faster response. On October 4, 2022, a team from the Goonhilly satellite earth station in England will send a message to 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 also harbor liquid and potentially life. TRAPPIST-1 is only 39 light-years away, so it could take intelligent life 78 years to get the message and Earth to get the answer.

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