How to send a message to another planet

IN 2029 the inhabitants, if any, of the planet GJ 273b will receive a message that will change their lives forever. Encoded in radio signals emanating from an innocuous-looking blue-green planet 12.4 light-years away, will be tutorials in mathematics and physics, followed by a burst of music. The import of the message, however, will be clear: “Let’s talk.”

Or so Douglas Vakoch hopes. For on November 16th Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI), the group that he heads, and the organisers of Sónar, a music festival in Barcelona, announced they had sent a series of missives towards Luyten’s star, the red dwarf around which GJ 273b orbits.

“Sónar Calling GJ 273b”, as the initiative is called, sent its message in mid-October from a radar antenna at Ramfjordmoen, in Norway. The antenna, run by EISCAT, a scientific organisation based at the Swedish Institute of Space Physics in Kiruna, is usually used to study Earth’s…Continue reading

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