Extraterrestrials: a new message from humanity for them

48 years after the famous message from Arecibo, an international team that includes members of the JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) and the SETI Institute (Look for extraterrestrial intelligence) wants to renew the experience. “Thanks to the technical developments of the last 50 years, it is now possible to shape a more detailed and robust message,” said Jonathan H. Jiang, JPL astrophysicist and lead author of the new study. This “lighthouse in the galaxy” (Lighthouse in the galaxy) will thus contain more rudimentary mathematical notions, with the aim of constructing a supposedly universal language. Not to mention the launch of some very promising new optical instruments, such as the ATA (Allen telescope array) or FAST (Five meter aperture spherical radio telescope). It remains to be seen whether transmitting information about us to an extraterrestrial civilization is a good long-term idea …

AmasHercules. The signal of Arecibo will one day reach the cluster of Hercules, almost 25,000 light-years from Earth. Shutterstock

A Rosetta Stone through space

By sending a signal to the immensity of space, the idea is not new. In addition to the famous radio signal from the giant Arecibo antenna in Puerto Rico in 1974, the probes Pioneer such as probes Travel plates and disks were provided that provided information about the Earth and humanity. More recently, two ETMs (Messages from Evpatoria broadcasts), or Cosmic Calls 1 and 2, were sent from Ukraine in 1999 and 2003. Almost 20 years later, Jonathan H. Jiang wants to go even further: “Our ‘lighthouse’ will contain a new series of information graphics in the form of images and special alphabets, to represent numbers, elements, DNA, land, ocean, human, etc. ” To help extraterrestrials in their translation, scientists have incorporated a decoding mechanism: the RLI (Row length indicator), which consists of a chosen repetition of 1 and 0. To make matters worse, the message will use a group of globular clusters as “beacons” that indicate the location of the Earth in our Milky Way …

Speaking of location, which area should be targeted first in the space gap? “The closer we get to the galactic center, the higher the density of stars that house planets. Beware, however, because the proximity of the heart promises high radiation and few elements needed for the formation of these stars,” said Stuart. Taylor, an astrophysicist at the SETI Institute and co-author of the study, followed by a series of statistical analyzes and modeling, with researchers leaning toward a donut-shaped annular concentric region that spans 2 to 6 inches. kpc, or between 6.5 and 19.5 light-years. “Because the Earth itself is 8.3 kpc from the center of the galaxy, the privileged region will point in that direction,” says Jonathan H. Jiang. Towards a star cluster where the chances of crossing a developed life seem the highest …

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What would aliens do once they had our location on the Milky Way? Image elements provided by NASA – Shutterstock

A help rather than a threat?

How to spread the “lighthouse light” between light years? With the help of two giant radio telescopes: ATA in northern California and FAST in southwestern China. “When fully operational, they will be among the largest and most powerful telescopes ever made. They will take over from Arecibo, which is now out of service,” said Jonathan H. Jiang. message, you have to be patient … The Arecibo signal, for example, has so far traveled less than 0.2% of the 25,000 light-years that separate it from the M13 globular cluster, or Hercules cluster. transmission, should reach the border of the “donut” region within 7500 years, so we can expect a response by the year 17,000 … But what will be the content? A peaceful return or a war announcement?

“Astronomer Carl Sagan noted that among the first televised broadcasts was Nazi propaganda,” recalls Stuart Taylor. Sending a thoughtful message to aliens would show them humanity in a better light. Mostly because according to researchers, this other civilization should not seek conflict, unlike the Klingon Empire of the Star Trek franchise. “Achieving the space age necessarily involves learning about peace, with the risk of seeing our biosphere destroyed,” says Stuart Taylor. Humanity should therefore learn from species such as bonobos, which limit their outbreaks of violence. As for the aliens, they would certainly like to rub shoulders with us, to better understand us and, who knows, to help us preserve our own environment …

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