Messages From Earth Beamed to Alien World


The powerful opening scene of the movie “Contact” portrays radio and television signals from Earth heading out into space. Then later in the film, shockingly, one of those signals — a televised speech by Adolf Hitler — is beamed back as a reply. Could that really happen? Could an alien civilization “find” us from our inherent noise? Or, if we want other intelligent life to know we’re here, will we have to take a more proactive or aggressive approach? Perhaps we’ll find out. Today, messages from Earth were beamed specifically at an alien world considered capable of supporting life, the planet Gliese 581c, a “super-Earth” located approximately 20 light years from us. The social networking site Bebo sponsored a competition for young people to share their views and concerns of life on Earth, and the winners’ messages were transmitted this morning from a radio telescope in Ukraine. Bebo was assisted by Dr. Alexander Zaitsev, who says the only way alien civilizations might find us is if we specifically make ourselves known.

501 photos, drawings and text messages were translated into binary format and beamed through space in a four and a half hour transmission by the huge RT-70 radar telescope in Evpatoria, Ukraine, normally used to track asteroids.

The transmission started at 0600 GMT on October 9. Oli Madgett, from the media company RDF Digital who came up with the idea, said the message “passed the Moon in 1.7 seconds, Mars in just four minutes and will leave our Solar System before breakfast tomorrow”. The media company footed the $40,000 (£20,000) bill for the transmission.

The message should reach the Gliese system by about 2029. Any reply to the messages probably wouldn’t reach Earth for 40 years.

Bebo’s intent was to raise awareness for the concerns that young people have for the future of Earth, and to generate interest in space exploration. Bebo spokesman Mark Charkin said, “A ‘Message From Earth’ presents an opportunity for the digital natives of today… to reconnect with science and the wider universe in a simple, fun and immersive way.”

Dr. Zaitsev was a consultant for the project, and is one of the world’s experts in interstellar radio communication and is Chief Scientist of the Radio Engineering and Electronics Institute, at the Russian Academy of Science. His early work helped design and implement radar devices to study Mercury, Venus and Mars and Near-Earth asteroid radar research. Lately, he has focused on interstellar radio messaging, and what he calls METI – Messaging to Extra Terrestrial Intelligence.

“The leakage is of commercial television radio is much weaker than coherent sounding radar signals, such as the Arecibo Radio Telescope or the Goldstone Solar System Radar,” Zaitsev told Universe Today. “The leakage is weakly detectable against a background of solar radio emissions. I do not say that any imaginable super-aggressive and powerful civilization cannot detect our leakage, however.”

Update 10/10: Zaitsev added that the idea of the A Message From Earth internet project was developed in 2002 from his abstract Project METI@home: Messages to ETI from home,
(in English), and (in Russian). End of update.

As opposed to SETI, the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence, METI takes a more proactive approach. In his paper “Making the Case for METI,” Zaitsev and two colleagues wrote, “It is possible we live in a galaxy where everyone is listening and no one is speaking. In order to learn of each others’ existence – and science – someone has to make the first move.”

Zaitsev has been involved in several deliberate transmissions to space in hopes of making contact. “Otherwise,” he said, “centers of intelligence are doomed to remain lonely, unobserved civilizations.”

METI, as well as the Bebo project, takes a complete opposite approach from the recently formed WETI – Wait for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence.

Source: BBC

32 Replies to “Messages From Earth Beamed to Alien World”

  1. $40,000 to send a message to someone who may or may not even be there? There has got to be a better way to spend that kind of money.

  2. I agree with this totally. Of course, this does not replace SETI, any more then a microphone replaces a speaker. But it makes our voices heard in the cosmos. This is the sort of thing SETI is meant to detect. We can hardly hope to detect anything, if we ourselves are unwilling to say anything. Is there anyone out there? Are we just banging on our drums in a pleading call to the gods of the sky? That, is a question for philosophers.

  3. I wonder if anyone knows how strong the signal would be when it reaches the Gliese system and the size of radio telescope required to pick up the transmission.

  4. $40,000 ? A better use for it? I suppose we could use it to “bail out” something else failing, somewhere.

    Truth be told, I think this is one of the best uses possible for any amount of money. We might someday get a return on that $40,000 worth more than we’re ever likey to get from any “Better way to spend that kind of money”.

  5. As a member of WETI, I’m only partially interested in this news, in that now I get to wait 40-plus years for a low-probability response.

  6. Well, this was private money. The company paying the bill was, I’m sure, expecting a very earthly revenue in free advertizing, which it got, at least from sites such as this one. It’s an ad stunt, most of all.

    It’s less silly than other ad stunts, though, even if the likelyhood that there’s anyone listening in Gliese 581 is just about zero. So I don’t think there’s motive for complaints here.

  7. I agree with Farcall and Mark. It was such a minute amount of money compared to the money that gets thrown away bailing out institutions that don’t know how to manage themselves. Imagine a fraction of the money spent on things such as this applied to science and medicine.

  8. SETI, WETI METI I propose SPAGETI: space people against – something that starts with G – extra terrestrial intelligence.

    I thought we just learned that these signals degraded after a couple of light years.

  9. I’d like to point out that the mentioning of Hitler in this article does not satisfy Godwin’s Law. 🙂

  10. We’re fckd 😀 …they’ll know exactly where we are now. Thank you WETI for the early demise of the human civilization. 😀

  11. $40,000 would have bought a lot of server room for SETI somewhere. Or could have gone toward something here in this solar system such as a movement to try to get the dingbat NASA scientists to look for life on Europa, Mars, Enceladus, et al., instead of stupid cosmology-based science projects that tell us how the magnetic fields might work in Saturn’s 143st ring which translates to absolutely nothing learned in the long run and is totally lost on the public. How about some science we can work with or understand? I admit, it’s all fun for me because I stay up all night reading it but I really don’t see the point of half this stuff other than interesting theories that are disproven six months later.

  12. I hope those aliens are friendly. If they live on a super earth then I bet they’ll be super strong. That could be trouble. I hope those messages don’t make us an inviting target.

    But I wouldn’t blame WETI. Sending messages isn’t their style.

    I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

  13. This is just the tip of the iceberg. There will be more and more such messages sent to the stars and nobody’s going to be able to stop them all.

    Either way, get ready for the galaxy, humanity!

  14. A colony of ants was brought to my attention the other day. It had begun to develop at the base of a lovely Douglas Fir and was spreading with fervor, unfortunately the growing assemblage of ants had caught the attention of a park visitor who felt the ant hill was too close to a picnic site and might be a problem.

    As I approached the anthill, I noticed a few broken bottles and the scattered remnants of spent fireworks littering the mound, testimony to earlier interactions my species had had with the ants. The Hill it’s self was a complex, bustling hive of activity and as I stood I noticed a couple of the diminutive creatures crawl across my booted foot, perhaps hoping to engage in a dialogue, but more likely searching for resources or perhaps thinking they might defend their colony from an invader. I cannot guess their motive since their means of communication is too primitive for me to discern.

    Beyond the few I directly encountered however, the rest of the ants seemed entirely oblivious to my presence, hovering over them, making no attempt to conceal myself, holding in my hand an aerosol can of insecticide. For a moment I hesitated, then I began emptying the can.

    In moments the hive was awash in the writhing bodies of thousands of dieing creatures, their rudimentary nervous systems easily ravaged by the meticulously engineered chemical death sentence another member of my species had designed expressly for this purpose.

    Those few that managed to enter the colony and seek refuge ensured the doom of the rest inside, unwittingly carrying along the noxious poison that would ensure these creatures would trouble my species no longer. As the can rattled out it’s last venomous gasp I arose and began dismantling the hive with a shovel.

    The passage of this solitary colony would surely not make any great difference right? I mean the forest is filled with Douglas Fir Trees, surely at the base of another one of them somewhere else, another colony of Ants is thriving, perhaps even a colony that is of some use to me, just not this one, the one that called attention to it’s self by existing in such perilously close proximity to those of my species.

  15. Strangely I agree with silver thread? The reason for us to reach out to potential planets are underlined with survival? Beboians are concerned with the state of our planet so the better option will be to find anouther planet to exploit? Concider the senario, if a species are in the market for new cosmic realistate only one thing comes to mind; the last place we lived at was not good enough. Before we deside to send wack signals how about renovating and find a cleaner way to live. NO OTHER PLANET CAN SUPPORT US AS A SPECIES. if we need to survive in the long run we need to take our live support systems with us, all life on earth is important to our survival. Eco system 1o1 from your biology teacher in your area. So in a nut shell thank you METI for puting us in potential harms way? An old morral comes to mind “childern are seen and never heard”. Sure planet earth is a bobbing loud mouth for over a hunderd years, Hallo lucy must probably be a hudge hit out in the cosmos. Why bilibrately target our noise? in 20 years time we will probably get a message back that very diplomatically statse “stop polluting our space, get of our frequency” 🙂

  16. I’m sure the inhabitants of the Gliese system will have enough garbage of their own to wade through without the numpties on Bebo bothering them with their, “Oh look, Susie has finished her yoghurt and is reading HEAT magazine”, or “Donny is away just now cutting his toenails but will be back soon to enrich your life with his pointless ramblings”. I could bite holes in concrete when I read stuff like this which could undermine the work of SETI.

  17. I’d like to know what will happen if an object like a meteorite or some other dense material is in the path of the signal. Will it bounce it back to earth?

  18. What a bunch of wussies the human race has become.

    You think hiding under your beds is going to keep you safe from the rest of the Cosmos?

    People are going to keep transmitting into space and one day one of those signals is going to hit someone or something that can and will respond.

    Will we be ready, or will be too busy sticking our heads in the sand?

    If advanced aliens want to destroy us, there is nothing we can do about it. But if we learn who and what is out there first, it might make all the difference between our survival or extinction.

    So wake up, grow a pair, and get out there before it is too late for us!

  19. Slow down everyone. I believe the RF signal sent to the Gliese system will have faded to practically nothing, regardless of commercial power availability, after a light year or two of travel. I wonder if Dr. Zaitsev would mind sharing his math calculations with us concerning the amount of RF in watts he started with and figured would actually reach the Gliese system after twenty light years of travel.

  20. Kongaman…”Either way, get ready for the galaxy, humanity!”

    Huumm…or it wil be…”Either way, get ready for Humanity, galaxy!”?…Huumm… 😉

  21. It has probably been asked: but might I also see these “501 photos, drawings and text messages were translated into binary format and beamed through space in a four and a half hour transmission by the huge RT-70 radar telescope in Evpatoria, Ukraine, normally used to track asteroids.”

    It would be interesting, even ‘very interesting’ to see what views of Planet Earth and humanity are chosen to represent the world we know and love and our siblings that we at best sometimes tolerate.

  22. I must agree to those who believe in caution. Our own history has shown even we are not kind to our own species when a techologically superior faction (like the Great Holocaust begin by Columbus) makes with people with least developed weapons and talent for warfare. I know we cannot do anything about the leakage of all the radio noise or the pollution in our spectrum that will gives us away but no, do not make it easier for invaders to find us. They just might come “To Serve Man” and it could be a cookbook.

  23. Congratulations for the scientific bravery of Bebo and Dr. Zaitsev to continue the search for more knowledge about the universe, extraterrestrial potential habitable planets and the search for other forms of life and our future by sending out such messages.

    Unfortunately, the community of refusal and fear against this search and messaging is growing, esp. in the U.S., a country daily spending more money for war than for science, nature and knowlege. Some of them even plan to establish laws against sending messages to extraterrestrial planets. If successful this would scientifically bring us back to the middle ages with respect to the technical and scientific possibilities of the future.

    If more of the commentators to this article would be aware of the fact that (i) the probability of finding further extraterrestrial habitable planets of this galaxy is growing every day and (ii) these messages are the only way to find out anything about them and, thus, our past, our evolution and future as well as possible other forms of life, some of them would surely have reacted differently.
    Can’t human beings of this planet think of other forms of discovery than the one Columbus and esp. other discoverers (and also the church) did some 500 years ago or ongoing invasions like, e.g., in Irak ? In times of Alfonso El Sabio in Spain, all people and religions peacefully lived and acted together, thus, why always thinking of the “worst case”. We would have been stuck to the times when the curch refused to see, observe and accept that we are not living in the centre of the universe but still fight for views such as the Earth being a huge plane and murdered those continuing.

    Science and human knowledge will and should never stop discovering the origins, even if this means that such way will be problematic.

    I hope once we will discover extraterrestrial inhabited planets and/or other civilizations, even our world, the Earth, will become more peaceful.

    Clear skies.

  24. I am still a little confused why the messages are not sent by light wave which is faster than radio. A high powered laser could beat that message there. Are we checking all bands of light for messages. Is it posable that certain light may not penitrate our atmospere and carey encripted messages to look like noise..
    It would seem that we steared away from light waves until fiber optics came along.
    I might hope we are not alone with the pursuit of science.

  25. They both travel at the same speed as they’re both part of the E-M spectrum. Different wavelengths.

  26. Zaitsev you idiot, stop sending out meaningless kiddie messages. The world is running out of oil, we need a machine which will produce an alternative energy. <—-send that into space.

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