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The international team’s work, published in Arxiv and awaiting peer review, is called a Beacon in the Galaxy (BITG), and aims to send the transmission in binary code using radio waves toward the Milky Way galaxy.
“The proposed message includes basic mathematical and physical concepts to establish a universal means of communication followed by information on the biochemical composition of life on Earth, the solar system’s time-stamped position in the Milky Way relative to known globular clusters, as well as digitized depictions of the solar system and Earth’s surface. The message concludes with digitized images of the human form, along with an invitation for any receiving intelligences to respond,” the authors explained.
The message would transmit from two potential telescopes including the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope in China and the SETI Institute’s Allen Telescope Array in northern California.
EarthSky reports that while the telescopes can only currently receive signals from space, future upgrades might allow them to send messages.
In 1974, researchers use the Arecibo radio telescope to beam a message into space – the communication that this study is partially based on – but the Puerto Rico instrument collapsed in 2020.
This photo provided by the Arecibo Observatory, shows the damage done by a broken cable that supported a metal platform, creating a 100-foot (30-meter) gash to the radio telescope’s reflector dish in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020. ( Arecibo Observatory via AP)
The new message would be aimed at the “most likely area in the Milky Way containing intelligent life,” or a star cluster between 6,500 and 19,500 light-years from the center of the galaxy.
The paper said that binary would be a universal code across all intelligence, as it is the “simplest form of mathematics.”
In addition to the human forms, the message would also include DNA structure, the binary and decimal systems, prime numbers, mathematical operations, algebra, exponential operations, particle physics, the most common elements, a map of the solar system and the location of Earth, an image of Earth and its characteristics and an invitation to respond. The message would be timestamped, using a timeline originating from the Big Bang.
What would a reply look like?
“Theoretically, a return message would also include basic information of their own biosphere’s chemistry – although it is plausible, they are not carbon based – and an image of their physical appearance. In this scenario, the return message would be a direct analogue to the BITG message and would establish a mutual language to communicate with as well as provide basic, essential information for future communications as well as answer many questions of primary interest,” the authors said.
However, KCPQ – speaking with Jonathan Jiang, a co-author of the study and a principal scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory – reported that scientists had no plans to send the message yet, agreeing that the whole world must be on board.
“The tendency that humans try to destroy ourselves is the greatest danger,” Jiang said.
But the initiative – not affiliated with the space agency – is something he says is inspirational.
“In the words of Carl Sagan, ‘Even if the aliens are short, dour, and sexually obsessed – if they’re here, I want to know about them,’” the authors said. “This quote encapsulates the mindset of this message that as scientists we always pursue further knowledge, pushing back the boundaries of the conventional to explore and understand what awaits over the next horizon.”