Extraterrestrial contact: the METI group wants to send a second message to the TRAPPIST-1 system
METI, an organization aiming to connect with other civilisations, will send its second message from Goonhilly Satellite Earth Station in Cornwall, UK
April 12, 2022
A message containing scientific data and music samples will be broadcast to a star system 39 light years from Earth in hopes of sparking a conversation with advanced extraterrestrial intelligence.
The message is only the second to come from the San Francisco-based organization Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI). Unlike the Search Group for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), METI aims to proactively contact other civilizations rather than just listening to their evidence. Sending such messages requires extremely powerful transmitters because the strength of the signal, even when tightly focused, rapidly decreases in strength over the enormous distances required.
The message will be sent on October 4 from the Goonhilly satellite ground station in Cornwall, UK, to TRAPPIST-1, a star orbiting at least seven planets. Three of these small worlds are found in the so-called Goldilocks area where water could remain liquid and potentially support life.
Douglas Vakoch at METI says the transmission will be formed from short pulses sent in four different frequencies. The start will be a series of bursts to identify it as an artificial message, and it will then continue by describing a simple count, specifying the details of the periodic table and relaying representations of atoms, before including several samples musical.
“Our goal is to have redundant information, to have multiple ways to represent that information, to have the humility to say that what seems obvious to us may not be obvious to extraterrestrials,” Vakoch explains. “So let’s send them information in as many formats with the hope that one of them will make sense.”
The musical part of the message will include Ode 1. Ode to the Herald of God. A beauty of the earth by Edward Artemyev and Journey through the asteroid belt from The Comet is Coming, as well as tracks from DJs and musicians performing at Stihia festival in Muynak, Uzbekistan, organized to highlight the environmental impact of the shrinking Aral Sea.
If any lifeforms in the TRAPPIST-1 system get the message and respond, it will be about 80 years before we get word from them, Vakoch says. “If we get a response from the first half-dozen or dozen stars we target, that effectively means the universe is teeming with intelligent life,” he says.
“We’re testing a version of the zoo hypothesis – that in fact they’re there, they already know we’re here, but to get access to the galactic club we have to submit an application and maybe even pay a small membership fee,” says Vakoch. “So it’s our attempt to pay our dues and see if they’ll welcome us into the club.”
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