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Sending a Message

Vega, one of the brighter stars in the night sky, stands high overhead as twilight fades away this evening. It’s the leading light of Lyra, the harp. A possible message to alien life may target that same constellation. And if it does, October 4th is one of the two dates that are the best times to send it.

A team of scientists has crafted a new message based on one that was transmitted in 1974. Known as “Beacon in the Galaxy,” the binary message consists of basic text and illustrations.

It’s made of 13 parts. The first would use math and physics to establish a common language. Another would “timestamp” Earth’s location in the galaxy using star clusters as reference points. And others would provide information about Earth, the solar system, and humans. All of it would be squeezed into just 26 kilobytes — the size of a small text file.

The message would be transmitted from two radio telescopes. One is a giant dish in China. The other is an array of smaller dishes in California. When the team combined the locations of the telescopes, the location of the target, and other factors, they concluded that October 4th and March 30th are the best times to send the message.

There’s no guarantee that the message will ever be dispatched. Many scientists say it’s too risky — it could bring hostile aliens to attack us. In any event, there would be a long wait for a reply: the target region is thousands of light-years away.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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