Astronomers will send a signal to a star system hoping to find aliens. Again?

The earliest reply could be received in 80 years.
Ameya Paleja
An alien planetary systemElen11/ iStock

The periodic table and music from a festival highlighting climate change are among the messages that will be sent to a nearby star system, the astronomers at Messaging Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (METI) have announced in a press release

While the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) patiently listens to signals in the sky to look for evidence of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, METI takes a more proactive approach and wants to direct messages at specific start systems and look for possible responses. In 2017, the organization beamed a radio signal from the Norwegian city of Tromso that also consisted of some music samples and basics of geometry. 

Reaching out to alien life

Five years later, the organization wants to send a message to the TRAPPIST-1 star system, around 39 light-years away from the Earth. The star system consists of seven planets, at least three of which are in the Goldilock's zone, an area around a star where liquid water is most likely to be found and can potentially support life. 

Reaching out to such targets requires powerful transmitters that can send these signals is sufficient strength so that they can travel these far-off distances. Astronomers at METI will therefore use, the Goonhilly Satellite Earth Station in Cornwall, UK. 

To ensure that the message is received in its entirety, it will be sent out in four different phases of the same frequency. To help distinguish that the signal is artificial, it will begin with a series of bursts that are not found in naturally occurring radio waves, New Scientist reported

The message 

Apart from the periodic table that is encoded in binary language, the message will also consist of a description of the number count used on Earth and relay the depiction of atomic structure. 

This is being done to explain in universal chemical terms the environmental crisis that is upon us. To add a layer of redundancy to the data being sent, music samples are included in the message. These will include short clips from the Stihia music festival that is conducted annually to draw attention to the shrinking of the Aral Sea, once a thriving fishing destination that comparatively reduced to a trickle in the past six decades. 

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A special jury will decide which pieces from the festival will join the 15-second clips of “Beauty of the Earth” a piece of electronic music by Eduard Artemyev, and “Through the Asteroid Belt” that are scheduled to be part of the original message. 

If intelligent life in the TRAPPIST Start system does receive and respond to the message, then the reply will be received about 80 years from now. In addition to this, METI is also planning to send a similar message to exoplanet K2-18b, approximately 124 light-years from Earth, the press release added.