Astronomers are planning to send a stream of text messages to space next week that will not end for three decades. The first star receiving the messages will be Gliese 526, a red dwarf star which lies 17.6 light years from the Earth.
The Lone Signal Project is an attempt to actively attract the attention of aliens by sending deliberate signals to other, possibly populated, star systems. Although we have not yet found planets around Gliese 526, it is believed to harbor conditions likely to yield life-bearing planets, according to Jacob Haqq-Misra, Lone Signal chief science officer. After a while, possibly a month, the signal may be re-directed to another world.
On Monday, June 17, the signal will turn on at the Jamesburg Earth Station radio telescope near Carmel, CA, and the first deliberate continuous stream of data to other worlds will begin. The project has signed a 30-year lease for use of the 45-year-old telescope to carry out its mission of messaging to extraterrestrial intelligence (METI).
"As [long ago] as I can remember, I looked up at the stars and I thought, 'Is there anybody looking back at me?' I think there's just an inherent curiosity we all have, We all want to see what's on the other side of the next hill, and this is an extension of that curiosity," Ernesto Qualizza, Lone Signal chief marketing officer, said.
Television and radio waves powerful enough to be detected in space have been emitted by humans since the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. But the signal being delivered by the Lone Signal team will be much stronger and most distinct than those for any aliens listening in to the broadcasts.
The message will be in more delivered in two parts. The overlying "hailing message" is meant to describe our planet's location, describes the hydrogen atom in binary code (needed as a "code breaker" for our communication), and a periodic table. This hailing message, created by astronomer Michael Busch, will then explain to the aliens how to decode the signal carrying the text messages.
To take part in the project, or send your message to space, visit lonesignal.com. There you will be able to sign up to send your message, known as a beam, as well as track how far it has traveled. You can also dedicate beams to other people. The website will show where other people sending beams are located and provide new updates on the project.
The first message (up to 144 characters) is free, but after that, text messages cost one credit and picture messages cost three credits. Four credits may be purchased for 99 cents, which will help support the program. For the space geek who has everything, $99.99 will purchase 4,000 credits.
"It's important that it is feasible for anyone to take part in this experiment because it is so unique. It's never been that case that anyone on the face of the Earth can commune with the cosmos, and we are opening up that portal to the masses," Qualizza said.