47 Ursae Majoris
About 40 years from now, if anyone in the star system 47 Ursae Majoris happens to be pointing a radio telescope at Earth, they'll receive a short concert from some high school students in Russia.
The concert was beamed to star systems with known planets. 47 Ursae Majoris is a special target because the star itself is similar to the Sun. It's a little older than the Sun, so life has had plenty of time to take hold there.
Astronomers discovered a planet orbiting the star in 1996. It's more massive than Jupiter, the giant of our own solar system, and it orbits the star once every three years. There's evidence of another planet even farther from the star.
The planets are too cold to have liquid water, so they're not good homes for life. But it's possible that other planets could orbit closer to the star, where it's warmer.
In 2001, Russian students created a program to transmit to 47 Ursae Majoris and five other stars. It included music from Gershwin, Vivaldi, and others, all performed on the Theremin -- an instrument best known for its use in sci-fi movies -- followed by greetings in Russian and English. The program was transmitted from Russia's Evpatoria Deep Space Center on September 3rd of that year.
47 Ursae Majoris is just visible to the unaided eye. It's below the bowl of the Big Dipper, which is in the northwest this evening, and in the northeast at dawn.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2008
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