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Sending a Message

If anyone in the star system 47 Ursae Majoris happens to be aiming a radio telescope at Earth in about 26 years, they’ll hear a concert of Theremin music. The concert was beamed toward the system 20 years ago today — a project known as the Teen-Age Message.

The project was conceived by Alexander Zaitsev, a top radio and electronics engineer in Russia. He wanted to send a message to other civilizations that combined science and art. So the message included the equivalent of an ID tone, 15 minutes of music, and a series of images and notes. It was aimed at six different stars. The stars and the music were selected by Russian teenagers.

The sequence was beamed into space from a radio telescope in Ukraine. The first message went out on August 29th, 2001, but it won’t reach its target star until 2070.

The message was sent to 47 Ursae Majoris and two other stars on September 3rd, and the final stars the following day.

47 Ursae Majoris was picked because it was one of the first Sun-like stars known to have a planet. Since then, astronomers have discovered two more planets in the system. None of them is considered a likely home for life. But more hospitable planets could await discovery there. And in 2047, anyone on those planets could hear music from Vivaldi and a half-dozen other composers wafting through the galaxy … a message from Russian teenagers.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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