Two months ago, reports suggested that a group of scientists were planning to reach out to alien life, with the target date for these efforts being no later than the end of 2018. Now it would seem that the communications were already made last month, and that the scientists are hoping to receive a reply about 25 years from now.
The messages were sent by a group called Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI), and contained various forms of information that were sent to a star system located 12.4 light-years away from Earth. METI transmitted the message to the GJ273 star system over a three-day span in October during the Sonar festival in Barcelona, with an upcoming message detailing how and when alien life, if it is out there, should reply. Assuming they reply back, the response should arrive sometime in the early summer of 2043.
As Newsweek added, it was Sonar’s organizers who had specifically conceived the project, and asked for assistance from the Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia (IEEC) and the METI scientists. As the “festival of music, creativity, and technology” took place from October 16 to 18, they sent messages to the red dwarf star GJ273, which has an exoplanet called GJ273b that has been cited as potentially habitable.
All in all, the transmission lasted a total of 33 minutes, with the messages consisting of basic concepts that progressively build up to more complex content, beamed for 11 minutes each day. Newsweek explained that the message was repeated three times, as that would allow any possible form of alien life to make adjustments for errors as necessary.
Although the content of the messages was mostly identical, there was one specific difference that stood out — a “cosmic clock” with information on the passage of time The cosmic clock on each of the messages was slightly different, in order to show how much time had passed in between the sending of the messages.
The messages sent during the Sonar festival were similar in nature, albeit with a few twists, to what METI had hinted at in a September report from CNET. According to METI president Douglas Vakoch, the group’s plans involved a stripped-down approach to communicating with alien life. Instead of relaying detailed information about math, science, and life on Earth in general, Vakoch stressed that the “essentials of math and physics” were the most important things to include in the transmissions.
Not satisfied with just listening for extraterrestrial intelligence, a group splintered off of SETI to create METI—Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence https://t.co/C1ilNxmCFb— WIRED (@WIRED) November 17, 2017
METI’s plan to communicate with alien life doesn’t come without its share of detractors. SlashGear wrote about the potential of disagreements over the content of the messages one group is sending out, as well as the belief some have that message content should be decided by the “global community at large,” and not METI or any other small collective of scientists. Newsweek also cited comments from Stephen Hawking, as the legendary physicist believes that there could be great dangers involved if alien life does come in contact with our planet.
“If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans,” said Hawking.
In an email interview with Newsweek, Vakoch explained that his group feels that there is nothing to worry about with regards to a hostile response from alien life forms.
“Any civilization that could travel to Earth to do us harm could already pick up our leakage television and radio signals. So there’s no increased risk of alerting them of our existence. Earth’s atmosphere has been giving off evidence of life’s existence for two and a half billion years, thanks to the oxygen in our air. So any civilization that’s paranoid about competition has had plenty of time to come to Earth and wipe us out. That hasn’t happened.”
No specific timelines were given, but METI is working on the second phase of their project, which has been dubbed Sonar Calling GJ273b. The group plans to send a more detailed message to the same exoplanet, this time specifying that scientists will be waiting for a reply on June 21, 2043. Nonetheless, Vakoch explained that people shouldn’t expect a “snappy back and forth” between human scientists and alien life forms, as each exchange may likely take “at least several years” to complete, with entire conversations possibly lasting centuries or even millennia.
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