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Scientists design message to send Earth’s location to Aliens

Scientists have designed a radio message to be beamed into deep space that reveals Earth’s location, which they hope will be received and understood by an intelligent alien civilization, Newsweek reported.

The message is essentially an updated version of the famous Arecibo message, transmitted in 1974, which had the same purpose. Broadcast from the Arecibo Radio Telescope in Puerto Rico, the message consisted of 1,679 bits arranged into 73 lines of 23 characters.

According to the SETI Institute, the message was transmitted in binary code—ones and zeroes. Once decoded, the message forms a visual graphic consisting of a stick figure of a human as well as representations of our solar system, DNA, and the Arecibo telescope.

Arecibo Message

Now, scientists have designed a new message to improve upon the Arecibo transmission. Called the Beacon in the Galaxy (BITG) message, it contains more information about basic mathematics and science than the Arecibo message did. It is hoped that these concepts will be universally understood by life forms of at least similar intelligence to humans.

BITG message

There will even be an invitation to reply to the message with details of how to communicate with Earth.

Matthew Chong, a physics and maths student at Cambridge University and co-author of a draft report outlining the project, told Newsweek:

Extended from the 1974 Arecibo message and the 1999/2003 Cosmic Call, the main part of this BITG Message contains a new set of graphical information in the form of images and special ‘alphabets’ to represent numbers, elements, DNA, land, ocean, and human, etc., starting by an artificial header and footer that consists of prime numbers.

Jonathan Jiang, project lead and scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), told Newsweek that the BITG message also depicts a group of cosmic landmarks “to indicate the location of Earth within the Milky Way galaxy.”

The BITG message is made up of 13 parts that consist of approximately 204,000 effective binary digits, Universe Today explained, or 25,500 bytes overall.

Scientists said their goal was “to start a dialogue with ETI (extraterrestrial intelligence) – no matter how far in the future that might occur.”

The researchers do not intend to send the message themselves, but propose that it could one day be transmitted from the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope in China and the SETI Institute’s Allen Telescope Array in northern California.

The question over whether humans should be trying to contact alien life has been a source of contention among scientists. The late physics professor Stephen Hawking was firmly against it.

Hawking was an advocate of listening and observing, instead of seeking out other life by sending messages. He announced the launch of the Breakthrough Initiative in 2015, described as the largest scientific research program aimed at finding evidence of civilizations beyond Earth.

According to Science Alert, when speaking about Gliese 832 c, an exoplanet that is possibly habitable, Hawking said even if a signal from them is received, “we should be wary of answering back.”


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