Social networking sites are the backbone of “Web 2.0” and now one of the most popular sites, Bebo (popular with a younger demographic), hopes to reach out to extraterrestrial civilizations. Why? Well, the power of social networking sites like Bebo, Facebook and MySpace is that you can keep in touch with friends, make new friends and electronically hang out with people with similar interests. So Bebo will invite its users, celebrities and politicians to post messages that “consider the planet from a fresh perspective” and raise awareness of environmental pressures on Earth. In this day and age of democratically selecting news on the Internet (much like another Web 2.0 phenomenon, social bookmarking; like Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit etc.), rather than letting mainstream media select “what news is important,” Bebo users will vote the top 500 messages to be transmitted to a small red dwarf star, Gliese 581 in the hope of communicating what really matters to Bebo users. Plus they might extend the Bebo network to some new alien friends…
Transmitting messages to outer space is no new thing. Recently we’ve sent Beatles songs to Polaris and we’ve transmitted “Space Spam” to Ursa Major. But through the power of social networking, Bebo is sending the best 500 messages to a star with an orbiting planet, a possible candidate where life (or indeed an advanced civilization) may have evolved. The planet called Gliese 581c is classified as a “super-Earth” and it is located approximately 20 light years from us. The main point behind this effort isn’t necessarily to contact extraterrestrial civilizations however, it is to raise awareness about the concerns young people have for the environment.
“I understand that in the majority of cases these messages may be naÃ¯ve, but I also hope that we will receive a creative and fresh look at the subject.” – Dr Alexander Zaitsev
To achieve this, Bebo has teamed up with Oli Madgett of RDF Digital, a subsidiary of RDF Media and will be using the expertise of one of the world’s experts in interstellar radio communication, Dr Alexander Zaitsev. Once the 500 messages have been selected, they will be sent to Gliese 581c via a Ukrainian radio telescope, normally used to identify and track near-Earth asteroids.
The voting will commence on Bebo from August 4th until September 30th and the 500 messages, acting like a digital time capsule (after all, the message will take 20 years to reach its destination), will be transmitted on October 9th.
The British production company will cover the Â£20,000 ($40,000) bill for the four and a half hour transmission from the National Space Agency in Ukraine.
Although sending radio transmissions to the outer reaches of space may seem like a long-shot when trying to communicate with extraterrestrials, this alternative approach will help to raise awareness for the concerns that young people have for the future of Earth, let alone an increase for interest space exploration. The intent is certainly a positive step toward giving the adults of tomorrow a voice and an opinion.