Scientists are making plans to beam messages from Earth out into the universe, effectively cold-calling the solar system to find signs of other life, Mail Online reports. Astronomers will transmit signals from radio telescopes to hundreds of other star systems in the hope of making groundbreaking discoveries. The plan, put together by scientists at the Seti (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute in California, has been trumpeted as a major step in humanity’s exploration of space.
Systems within a 20-light year radius of the planet will receive the message if the project is green lit. ‘There could be many civilisations out there but if they are all listening and no one is broadcasting then nothing will happen,’ said David Black, an astrophysicist and Seti’s chief executive told the Sunday Times. ‘One question is… if we go ahead, what message should we send? Should it be the work of a few scientists or should we involve the whole world, perhaps through the internet?’
For half a century SETI has been searching for something that we ourselves do not produce: deliberate transmissions towards distant worlds,’ added Douglas A. Vakoch. The project will be discussed at at the annual meeting of the American Association of Advancing Science next week. Leading academics however fear it could backfire, with Stephen Hawking, the world’s most prolific scientist, warning against inviting aliens to the planet if they are found to exist.
The physicist is famously convinced of life beyond planet Earth, but has spoken of the dangers of extraterrestrial beings in the past. ‘If aliens do visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans,’ he said in a 2010 documentary. If the plan is approved, researchers will use radio telescopes to send out the messages. The telescopes transmit and reflect radio light off planets in the solar system and observe the longest wave lengths of light. In 1974 a radio telescope was used to transmit the largest beam in history out into the universe from Puerto Rico.
The broadcast was sent from the Arecibo Radio Telescope and consisted of a simple image aimed at clusters 21,000 light years away.