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Send a Tweet to our Alien Friends on Gliese 581 D

An artist’s impression of Gliese 581d, an exoplanet about 20.3 light-years away from Earth, in the constellation Libra.

An artist’s impression of Gliese 581d, an exoplanet about 20.3 light-years away from Earth, in the constellation Libra.

If you’ve ever wanted to communicate with aliens, here’s your chance. Cosmos Magazine is offering the chance to send a message to another planet, Gliese 581 d. This exoplanet is about 20.3 light-years from Earth, in the constellation Libra, and some have said if life is elsewhere in the Universe, this is the mostly likely place that we currently know about. It was first discovered in 2007, and astronomers say this planet is well within the habitable zone around its star, where liquid water oceans could exist. Cosmos is collecting short, 160 character messages to be transmitted out to the vicinity of Gliese 581 d with the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex in Tidbinbilla, Australia. Cosmos says it will take about 20 years for the message to reach its destination, and admits there is no guarantee of a response. If interested, check out Cosmos’ “Hello From Earth” webpage. Hurry, as the deadline is 5pm Monday August 24, 2009 Sydney time (07:00 GMT Monday 24 August 2009).

This is Cosmos’ way of celebrating the IYA and National Science Week in Australia. However, we’ve had lively discussions here on before UT about if we are sending too much information out into the cosmos. What do you think?

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Torbjorn Larsson OM August 18, 2009, 11:32 AM

    if we are sending too much information out into the cosmos. What do you think?

    I haven’t looked at the earlier discussions, but naively I would judge that this is a non-issue scare on the level of the “foreign bacterias are infectious” non-issue.

    Not because civilizations would be non-competitive at closer contact, they always are, but because there will be no closer contact. Travel and even more resource utilization will be prohibitively expensive. Thus, there is no risk to inform “where the house is”, no one will make a drive by visit.

    What we will have to guard against is the same as in current communication: viral (likely to happen) and trojan (less likely to succeed) messages or cultural material (including physical) that attempt to “seed” the receiver with harmful material. That will happen because of mistakes, malice and strategy for future colonization.

    The filters and defenses should be against incoming complex material IMO.

  • Lawrence B. Crowell August 18, 2009, 12:54 PM

    A couple of years ago I did some analysis on this. The planet would have about twice Earth’s gravity. It is also close enough to the star that it is tidally locked. So one face is hot and the other is frozen. There might be a longitudinal belt where conditions might be favorable for life. The star there would appear near the horizon there. Yet I suspect that this planet is pretty bleak by our estimates and if there is life it is rather primative.

    LC

  • cipater August 18, 2009, 1:08 PM

    Aren’t we already constantly spraying radio transmissions at these guys? How will they pick this little message out of HD episodes of The Desperate Housewives, or whatever? And what makes us think they’ll be listening? Wouldn’t they have to be aiming dishes at us to hear? I mean, there’s the chance that it’s habitable, then there’s the chance that it’s inhabited by something intelligent, then there’s the chance that they’re using the same technology as us. Heh! Who knows if we’ll even be using this technology in 100 years. What’s 100 years in the evolution of an intelligent civilization? That’s quite a small target to aiming blindly at.

    Seems frivolous to the extreme. Pointless even. I guess that’s understood and that it’s all in good fun, but still: ughh.

  • yanluz86 August 18, 2009, 5:26 PM

    Just sent one.

    This is just in good fun guys. I like anything that gets the non science folks talking about science. especially about the possibility of life out there.

    Cheers,
    Yan.

  • tacitus August 19, 2009, 1:56 AM

    Any ETIs out there who are capable of detecting broadcasts from Earth almost certainly know that there is intelligent life in orbit around the Sun anyway.

    We have barely entered the space age and yet we are already taking the first steps (Kepler, COROT, etc) towards building a comprehensive survey of the planets within 1,000 light years (or more) of Earth. Imagine how many planets we will have actual images of by the time, say, 2209 comes along. We could be in the millions by then.

    Thus we will have millions of images of planets and the spectra of their atmospheres, each one giving clues as to any life forms that might inhabit their surface — e.g. light pollution from the night side, and industrial contaminants from the day side.

    Earth has already been broadcasting the signal of life for billions of years and has been a beacon build from our technology of at least 100 years.

    So there’s absolutely no point in fretting about any message being sent out to the stars. There’s either no one listening or they already know we’re here. Either way, it makes little difference.

  • Astrofiend August 18, 2009, 10:12 PM

    Yeah – I sent one a week or so ago for the hell of it.

    It read something like this: “Dear aliens – please send a response back to our politicians explaining that they should fund astronomical research programs like terrestrial planet finder in full. They are worth it.”

    What the hell? It’s neither here nor there whether it gets sent or not. Maybe some distant civilisation will pick it up on on their SETI program which will then keep their scientists employed for decades to come.

    See – I’m just doing my bit for the stimulating the interstellar economy. When they reply in 40 years, pollies will see the light and the TPF will get funded and built – thereby stimulating OUR economy.

    My indescribably and undoubtedly awesome plan has been set in motion – now we just have to play the waiting game…

  • Jon Hanford August 19, 2009, 6:36 AM

    Astrofiend, let us know if you hear anything back from them :)

  • Dave Finton August 19, 2009, 8:17 AM

    The thing I fear most is not that the alien civilization would be warmongers who would misconstrue our messages and declare war on Earth. No, my biggest fear is that the alien reply will be “OMG LOL BFF?” Because then we will know that our galaxy is truly doomed.

  • Astrofiend August 19, 2009, 4:37 PM

    Jon Hanford Says:
    August 19th, 2009 at 6:36 am

    Will do…

    Dave Finton Says:
    August 19th, 2009 at 8:17 am

    You’re right. If that happened, I’d have to perform a lobotomy on myself just to be able to bear it.

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