Rene Passet/Flickr

You can now send a 'message in a bottle' that'll reach the North Star in 434 years

Hello from the other side.

FIONA MACDONALD
5 FEB 2016
 

If you've ever wanted to reach out to potential life outside of our Solar System, this is your chance. A new project will beam people's text-based messages into space at light speed later this year, with the communications predicted to reach Polaris - or the North Star - in 434 years.

The messages will be transmitted as radio signals, and the researchers hope they'll form something of a 'time capsule' that will reveal insights into how we feel about the environment at this crucial point in our history. "This project will create a culturally inspired message in a bottle capturing global perspectives that will travel into space for aeons," explains one of the project coordinators, Paul Quast, from the University of Edinburgh College of Art in Scotland.

 

This isn't the first time researchers have sent messages into space - back in 1974, something called the 'Arecibo message' was broadcast as a bunch of 1s and 0s towards the Messier 13 star claster.

The 3-minute binary transmission was put together by Frank Drake, creator of the famous Drake equationand astronomer Carl Sagan, and contained a whole lot of encoded information about our DNA, a graphic image of a human, a map of the Solar System, and other information that aliens might find handy if they wanted to know more about us.

Since then, a range of other projects have beamed radio-wave transmissions towards distant planets and stars, mostly with the aim of providing any intercepting extraterrestrial intelligence with crucial insights into humanity. Or, if nothing else, asking them to hit us back with a message of their own.

This new project, titled A Simple Response, is a little different, because its aim isn't to speak to life outside our planet (although there's always the possibility of the transmission being intercepted). Instead, the researchers involved hope the messages will help them understand more about how people around the world think about climate change, regardless of geography or background.

To that end, the project is asking people to answer a simple question: "How will our present environmental interactions shape the future?" The results will be compiled and beamed into interstellar space as radio waves in August this year. That next step is something they're now working on with physicists and astronomers at the University of Edinburgh.

Thanks to the fact that radio waves travel at the speed of light, within 21 hours of transmission, the signal will have travelled deeper into space than one of our most famous message-carriers - Voyager 1, which was launched in 1977 and is now venturing through interstellar space.

Polaris was chosen as the target for the new message because of its significance as a reference point for navigators and stargazers throughout the ages, the project website explains.

It also allows us the emotional benefits of being able to track our tiny human time capsule as it makes it way out into the depths of space. And if that doesn't help to remind people that we're all just one species, living on lonely rock with the common goal of survival, I don't know what will.

You can leave your interstellar message at the A Simple Response website now.

More From ScienceAlert

Scientists have figured out why human skin doesn’t leak

Despite us losing 500 million skin cells per day.

10 hours ago
New evidence suggests Parkinson's might start in the gut, not the brain

We might have been wrong about Parkinson's this whole time.

13 hours ago
WATCH: Jupiter's moons make actual sine waves

Our mathematical Universe is not what it seems.

15 hours ago