An ambitious new SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) test is underway.
At 3 pm EDT (1600 GMT) today (May 24), the European Trace Gas Orbiter Mars probe sent a coded message toward Earth. Sixteen minutes later, it was received by three large radio telescopes on Earth, starting a global effort to decipher the cryptic signal.
That effort is A Sign in Space, a multi-week project led by Daniela de Paulis, the current artist-in-residence at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California and the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia.
“Throughout history, humanity has searched for meaning in powerful and transformative phenomena,” de Paulis said in a statement.
“Receiving a message from an extraterrestrial civilization would be a profoundly transformative experience for all of humanity,” he added. “A Sign in Space offers the unprecedented opportunity to tangibly rehearse and prepare for this scenario through global collaboration, fostering an open search for meaning across cultures and disciplines.”
Related: The search for extraterrestrial life (reference)
The Green Bank Observatory is one of three telescopes that listened to the Trace Gas Orbiter signal today, along with the SETI Institute’s Allen Telescope Array in northern California and the Medicina Radio Astronomical Station in northern Italy, which is managed by by the Italian National Institute of Astrophysics.
Researchers at each of those facilities will now process the signal and make it available to their colleagues around the world and to the general public. The project team wants people from different backgrounds to study the signal and try to decipher it.
“This experiment is an opportunity for the world to learn how the SETI community, in all its diversity, will work together to receive, process, analyze and understand the meaning of a possible extraterrestrial signal,” said Wael Farah, project scientist at the ATA. he said in the same statement.
“More than astronomy, communicating with ET will require a breadth of knowledge,” Farah said. “With A Sign in Space, we hope to take the first steps in bringing a community together to meet this challenge.”
You can learn more and submit your own message ideas via the project website.
You can also participate in A Sign in Space in other ways.
For example, over the next six to eight weeks, the project team will host a series of Zoom meetings that will focus on the societal implications of detecting advanced alien life “technosigature,” among other topics.
You can learn more about these workshops and register to attend them here.
Leave a Reply