What would happen if our planet got a message from an alien civilisation? A team of international experts, including space scientists and artists came together to simulate that scenario with the “A Sign in Space” project.
The purpose of the project was to understand how to decode and interpret an extraterrestrial message by engaging a worldwide community, including professionals from different fields and the broader public, according to SETI Institute, which led the project.
On May 24, 2023, the European Space Agency’s Trace Gas Orbiter spacecraft, which is in orbit around Mars, transmitted an encrypted message to our planet to simulate a scenario where we receive a signal from an extraterrestrial intelligence.
“Throughout history, humanity has searched for meaning in powerful and transformative phenomena. Receiving a message from an extraterrestrial civilization would be a profoundly transformational experience for all humankind. A Sign in Space offers the unprecedented opportunity to tangibly rehearse and prepare for this scenario through global collaboration, fostering an open-ended search for meaning across all cultures and disciplines,” said Daniela de Paulis, in a press statement. De Paulis is the artist behind the A Sign in Space project.
Three astronomy observatories across the globe will detect the encoded message—SETI Institute’s Allen Telescope Array (ATA), the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT) at the Green Bank Observatory (GBO), and the Medicina Radio Astronomical Station observatory managed by Italian National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF).
As of now, the message developed by De Paulis and team remains undisclosed. This is to allow the public to contribute towards decoding and interpreting the content. The ATA, GBT and Medicina teams are processing the signal and making it available to the public. The SETI Institute is working with Breakthrough Listen Open Data Archive and Filecoin, a decentralised storage network to store the data.
Anyone who wants to work on decoding and interpreting the message can discuss the process in the project’s Discord server. Submissions of inputs can be made through a form on the project’s website: asignin.space/decode-the-message
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