By now you’ll have most likely come across today’s Google Doodle (come on, don’t like you haven’t spent all day on the internet).
And no, it’s not commemorating Space Invaders, rather 44 years since the Arecibo message was sent out into the universe.
In 1974, the Arecibo message was transmitted into space by the Arecibo Observatory’s radio telescope. The signal was a celebration of the observatory’s recent renovation, and broadcast humanity’s existence to the stars.
The three-minute long message was beamed out via Arecibo’s megawatt transmitter and 305 meter antenna, which allowed for the signal to pinpoint a very small spot in the sky.
According to SETI (Search for Extraterrestial Intelligence), the signal’s power was equivalent to 20 trillion watt broadcast. By today’s standards, the signal is pretty puny, and consisted of only 210 bytes containing 1,679 binary digits. Still, it should be possible to pick it up anywhere in the galaxy, if the aliens listening have equipment similar to that used at Arecibo.
But what did the message actually say?
The signal included information about humans and our DNA, complete with a picture of the double helix and an average-sized man. It also featured the numbers one to ten, as well as the atomic numbers of hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and phosphorus – the elements known as “the building blocks of life.”
A depiction of our solar system was also thrown in, along with details of where the signal was transmitted from.
Although the broadcast was targeting a cluster of stars, it was never meant to be a serious attempt to contact alien life. Nevertheless, the cluster of stars – known as M13 – may contain planets amongst its hundreds of thousands of stars.
So, it’s possible that one of those worlds may be harboring an alien civilisation, though they could be completely different to us.
Not to mention, M13 is 25,000 light years away, meaning it would take 25,000 years to get there. So, even if aliens did happen across the signal, we’ll be waiting another 25,000 years for it to get back to us (sorry everyone).
Although with the way the world is going, would you come here?