The question of whether or not we are alone in the universe has preoccupied scientists for decades, but efforts to find life beyond our planet have so far been unfruitful.
Now experts are planning to broadcast a radio message containing Earth’s location deep into space, in the hope that it may one day be received and understood by an alien civilisation.
Called the Beacon in the Galaxy (BITG) message, it is essentially an updated version of the famous Arecibo message, which was first transmitted in 1974 for the same purpose.
That was sent in binary code — ones and zeroes — which, once decoded, formed a visual graphic showing a stick figure of a human, our DNA and a depiction of our solar system.
BITG will also include a drawing of DNA, the solar system and a diagram of the male and female form, but it also contains a lot more information about basic mathematics and science than the Arecibo message did.
For example, there will also be information about the most common elements on Earth, a map showing current land masses on our planet, and an invitation to reply to the message.
While the prospect of contacting alien life may sound exciting, broadcasting our location into space goes against concerns voiced by late physics professor Stephen Hawking that intelligent extraterrestrial civilisations may want to destroy us.
Scientists are planning to broadcast a radio message with Earth’s location deep into space, in the hope that it may one day be received and understood by an alien civilisation. Called the Beacon in the Galaxy (BITG) message, it will include a diagram of the male and female form
There will even be an invitation to reply to the message with details of how to communicate with Earth.
Professor Hawking showed support for efforts to find aliens by listening, but warned against actively reaching out in the form of radio messages amid fears that humanity’s own behaviour suggests extra-terrestrial life might not be friendly.
‘If you look at history, contact between humans and less intelligent organisms have often been disastrous from their point of view, and encounters between civilisations with advanced versus primitive technologies have gone badly for the less advanced,’ he said.
But Jamilah Hah, who is involved in the BITG project, thinks the benefits of contacting aliens outweigh the potential risks, ‘as long as contact is approached with a clear sign of peace’.
Matthew Chong, a physics and maths student at Cambridge University and co-author of a draft report outlining the project, explained what the BITG message would include.
Among the data contained in BITG is a map showing current land masses on Earth (pictured)
‘Extended from the 1974 Arecibo message and the 1999/2003 Cosmic Call, the main part of this BITG Message contains a new set of graphical information in the form of images and special “alphabets” to represent numbers, elements, DNA, land, ocean, and human, etc., starting by an artificial header and footer that consists of prime numbers,’ he told Newsweek.
The draft report outlining the proposed BITG message has been published on the arXiv pre-print archive.
The message has not yet been broadcast and no date has been given as to when it might happen.
However, the scientists propose a potential future transmission from the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope in China and the SETI Institute’s Allen Telescope Array in northern California.
She scientists propose a potential future transmission from the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope in China (pictured) and the SETI Institute’s Allen Telescope Array in northern California
The Arecibo message was first broadcast on 16 November, 1974, from the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, which was built in the 1960s with money from the US Defense Department amid a push to develop anti-ballistic missile defenses.
Its main purpose was to demonstrate the capabilities of newly-installed equipment in the upgraded radio telescope and was an attempt to contact extraterrestrial intelligence.
However, the Arecibo Observatory collapsed on December 1, 2020 when a cable holding up a 900-tonne receiver platform snapped around 8am local time that morning and sent the massive structure hurling onto the reflector dish more than 400 feet below.
Officials were set to shut it down after 57 years of service but Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vázquez stepped in and signed an executive order approving $8 million to help rebuild it.
During its more than 50 years in operation, the observatory has detected whirling pulsars, captured geological features of Mars and helped astronomers discover the near-Earth asteroid Bennu, along with making an appearance in the 1995 James Bond film GoldenEye.
The giant telescope was also used in programs that search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) because its location provided scientists access to one-third of the cosmos.
Source: DailymailScientists To Send A Radio Broadcast Into Space For Exact Location Of Aliens