Humans are one step closer to communicating with aliens.
The SETI Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to understanding life in space, simulated an alien signal emitted from a Mars orbiter at 3 p.m. ET.
The radio waves shot through space at the speed of light and were collected by three enormous telescopes in 16 minutes.
The first exercise of its kind is designed to prestore scientists to the “profoundly transformative experience for all of humanity” when aliens make contact with our planet.
Scientists in the US and Italy were overjoyed when the message appeared on computer screens, which downloaded the radio waves in chunks.
People on Earth with a ham radio also picked it up at 8.4 gigahertz – although it wasn’t all of the signal.
The team is keeping important details about the stunt under wraps, including the type of signal and what it contains.
The tight lid is because the encrypted broadcast is shared with the public so they can help decrypt it.
Telescopes on Earth have captured a simulated alien message. The first exercise of its kind is designed to prepare scientists for the “profoundly transformative experience for all of humanity” when aliens make contact with our planet
Daniela dePaulis, the visionary artist behind the A Sign in Space project, said during the live-streamed event, “It was very real. It is not the first time we have received a signal from TGO [ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter]but this one is a real message.’
The signal is sent from the European Space Agency’s TGO, which hovers over Mars and studies its atmosphere.
Three massive telescopes around the world captured the broadcast: the Allen Telescope Array (ATA) in California, Robert C. Byrd at the Green Bank Observatory (GBO) in West Virginia, and the Medicina Radio Astronomical Station in northern Italy.
The signal cannot be heard on Earth or at the telescope stations.
Victoria Catlett, GBO software engineer, explains: ‘A radio signal is not inherently sound, but a light wave.
“When we receive it with something like a car radio, that light wave is translated into the up and down movement in the speaker – and that’s what you hear.”
She said once the radio waves are fully captured, the team will upload the data and allow the public to download it.
The teams securely store the processed data in collaboration with Breakthrough Listen Open Data Archive and Filecoin, a decentralized storage network.
The signal is sent from the European Space Agency’s TGO, which hovers over Mars and studies its atmosphere
Scientists in the US and Italy (pictured) were overjoyed when the message appeared on computer screens, which downloaded the radio waves in sections
Three massive telescopes around the world captured the broadcast: the Allen Telescope Array (ATA) in California, Robert C. Byrd of the Green Bank Observatory (GBO) in West Virginia (pictured), and the Medicina Radio Astronomical Station in northern Italy
Researchers said the post will be uploaded sometime Wednesday evening and will share two links on SETI’s social media platforms when it is complete.
Only one megahertz of bandwidth is extracted and uploaded. The size of the image is about five gigabits per telescope. Four files will be available.
The easiest file to work with is probably the one associated with GBO, as the telescope picked up the strongest signal, but all files will contain the same information.
Researchers work together to solve the message by giving the public access to the message and helping to decode what it says.
And there is one submission form for anyone taking up the challenge.
Humans crafted the alien message, so SETI notes that the actual communications for life in space would look very different from what humans might muster.
And the team knows that any transmission from the final frontier would come from worlds much further away than Mars.
Earth has been picking up signals traveling through space.
“Much of the radio emissions coming from space are emitted by tiny electrically charged particles, called electrons, moving through magnetic fields,” said the European Space Agency (ESA).
“These electrons are usually accelerated away from the shock waves of exploding stars, known as supernovae.”
One problem was that astronomers have always had trouble distinguishing between potential alien signals and human-made ones.
This changed in February when a team of scientists led by the University of Toronto designed an algorithm capable of determining which signals are artificial and which may be extraterrestrial messages.
SETI’s project, called “A Sign in Space,” is an important part of the investigation into the possibility of alien contact with Earth.
“Throughout history, humanity has searched for meaning in powerful and transformative phenomena,” DePaulis said.
“Receiving a message from an alien civilization would be a profoundly transformative experience for all of humanity.
“A Sign in Space offers the unprecedented opportunity to tangibly rehearse and prepare for this scenario through global collaboration, fostering an open search for meaning across cultures and disciplines.”