When We Left Earth

by Anand Khandelwal March. 16, 2011 1698 views

This is a graphical representation of the Arecibo message - Humanity's first attempt to use radio waves to actively communicate its existence to alien civilizations.

The Arecibo message was broadcast into space a single time (not repeated) via frequency modulated radio waves at a ceremony to mark the remodeling of the Arecibo radio telescope on 16 November 1974. It was aimed at the globular star cluster M13 some 25,000 light years away because M13 was a large and close collection of stars that was available in the sky at the time and place of the ceremony.The message consisted of 1679 binary digits, approximately 210 bytes, transmitted at a frequency of 2380 MHz and modulated by shifting the frequency by 10 Hz, with a power of 1000 kW. The “ones” and “zeros” were transmitted by frequency shifting at the rate of 10 bits per second.

The message consists of seven parts that encode the following:

1. The numbers one (1) through ten (10)
2. The atomic numbers of the elements hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and phosphorus, which make up deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA)
3. The formulas for the sugars and bases in the nucleotides of DNA
4. The number of nucleotides in DNA, and a graphic of the double helix structure of DNA
5. A graphic figure of a human, the dimension (physical height) of an average man, and the human population of Earth
6. A graphic of the Solar System
7. A graphic of the Arecibo radio telescope and the dimension (the physical diameter) of the transmitting antenna dish

Because it will take 25,000 years for the message to reach its intended destination of stars (and an additional 25,000 years for any reply), the Arecibo message was more a demonstration of human technological achievement than a real attempt to enter into a conversation with extraterrestrials. In fact, the stars of M13 that the message was aimed at will no longer be in that location when the message arrives. The real purpose of the message was not to make contact, but to demonstrate the capabilities of newly installed equipment.

I woke up to a weird morning today and well, this is the result. Who hasn't thought about ETs? Not much of the actual stuff gets out and its always the Sci-Fi movies that end up giving us a visual picture of the very idea of life elsewhere. I thought maybe I'd do a little piece about what scientists and Space Agencies around the world have been doing and give an over-all picture of humanity's attempts to reach out rather than to speculate on what's coming in. This is the best visual I could associate with. It felt simple and real.

Look maa, the aliens just got our SMS!

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Varun Rajaram 10 years, 7 months ago

Pretty cool I would say .But considering the fact that mobile phones will be obsolete 25000 years hence, I just hope the modern technology has credence to decode this primitive form of communication! :) Btw it would be worthwhile to think that radio messages can be intercepted any number of times and forwarded again.A plausible explanation for rosswell,phoenix lights and crop circles?? Maybe.Maybe not.

10 years, 7 months ago Edited
Eric J H Joyce 10 years, 7 months ago


10 years, 7 months ago Edited
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