On 16th November 1974, Dr. Frank Drake of Cornell university along with Carl Sagan released a very unambiguous signal into the cosmos in the hope of making contact with aliens. This signal is known as the Arecibo message 1 and is considered as humanity’s first attempt at reaching out to the cosmos, in the hope of making contact with aliens. The Arecibo message was a radio signal pointed to a predefined spot in space with the hope that intelligent other worldly beings would one day receive it and hopefully reply to it.
Challenges in composing the Arecibo message
Composing a message that may not be found for thousands or perhaps even millions of years, to an audience that are bound to be completely different from us, proved quite challenging. The message not only had to be relevant but it would also have to stand the test of time. Something relevant right now may not be relevant 25 thousand years in the future. Another challenge in composing the Arecibo message was its selection of dialect. The message needed to be composed in such a way that alien civilizations would be able to decipher and understand it.
Composition of the Arecibo message
The Arecibo message was composed in binary format. The binary string would translate into an image that would constitute the following details about human civilization:
- Our numeric based counting mechanism(The numbers 1 to 10 in binary format)
- Elements that constitute the human DNA
- Double helix
- A basic appearance of the human bodily structure
- Current population of humans on Earth
- Information about our solar system
- Representation of the Arecibo radio telescope itself
In 2001, near the Chilbolton radio telescope in Hampshire,UK, a message suddenly appeared in the form of crop circles. The message was a near identical representation of the Arecibo message, except for the fact that certain elements were replaced with alien representations.2 This reply is however considered as a hoax by many.
Other attempts made by humanity to contact aliens
LAser GEOdynamics Satellite-1 (LAGEOS) was designed and launched by the United States Of America in 1976. It had a weight of 406 kgs and an expected life of 8 million years.3 Unlike the Arecibo message, the LAGEOS will not drift across the cosmos into infinity. The LAGEOS is actually intended to crash land back on Earth roughly 8 million years in the future. The LAGEOS is equipped with a message plaque that’s left for human beings of the future or perhaps even alien beings inhabiting Earth in the future.
In 2012, Echostar 16, a communications satellite was launched into geostationary orbit.4 It has various images, sounds and videos of our Earth and its inhabitants. This satellite, unlike the LAGEOS-1 will remain in space for billions of years.