The Aricebo message: the first attempt to contact aliens 44 years ago

The Aricebo message: the first attempt to contact aliens 44 years ago
© iStock/MF3d

Today is the 44th anniversary of the Aricebo message, the first attempt to leave a message for extraterrestrials.

The Aricebo message was sent from the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico in 1974. The Aricebo message is a three minute communication comprising of 1,679 binary digits. The aim of the binary digits is that when arranged in a specific way, they can briefly explain human existence to extraterrestrials.

What does the Aricebo message say?

The message can show:

  • The numbers one to ten;
  • The atomic numbers of some of the elements;
  • The formulas for the sugars and bases in the nucleotides of DNA;
  •  A graphic of the DNA double helix structure;
  • A figure of a human and the population of earth at the time; and
  •  A graph of the solar system and of the Aricebo telescope.

Dr Frank Drake and Carl Sagan were among the scientists involved in creating the message.

Today Google paid tribute to the anniversary of the instellar radio message by incorporating some of the graphics into the Google doodle.

© Google

Should we expect a response?

The Aricebo telescope was the largest and most powerful at the time. The Aricebo message was to demonstrate the power of the Aricebo telescope and its capabilities. The scientists sent the message to a cluster of stars 25,000 light years away using frequency modulated radiowaves.

Although the message has already travelled 416 trillion kilometres, the journey to its intended destination which will take roughly 25,000 years to complete. Even if extraterrestrials were to receive and respond to the message, scientists are not expecting a prompt response, if any at all.

“It was strictly a symbolic event, to show that we could do it,” said Donald Campbell, a professor of astronomy at Cornell University who was a research associate at the Arecibo Observatory at the time of the message.

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