The Arecibo observatory team wishes to entrust younger generations with a mission: to design a new message to send to potential extraterrestrial life forms. Forty-four years after the broadcast of the famous Arecibo message, it's time for them to throw a new bottle into the sea of stars.
'Our societies and technologies have changed a lot since 1974,' said Francisco Cordova, director of the observatory. 'So, if we had to put together a message today, what would it look like, and what would it take to learn to be able to come up with an understandable and up-to-date message from humans? These are the questions we're asking the younger generations around the world.'
Arecibo's 44-year-old message to globular cluster M13 - located 25,000 light-years from Earth - is representative of its time: an 8-bit message with primary colours, reminiscent of early console games. This fragment of code contains, among other things, a representation of the structure of our DNA, of our solar system and drawing of a human being.
The younger generations are put to the test
For now, we don't know what the new Arecibo message will look like, and even if it will ever be released into space. However, it's very likely that it will have lot to teach us about humanity and what to to transmit, even before we learn anything about the extraterrestrials.
The process of creating the new message will not be as simple as it seems. Teams of students from kindergarten to university will have the role of decoding clues and acquiring knowledge about astronomy, in order to propose their project during the competition launched by the observatory. The winners will be announced between October 28th and November 3rd, 2019, during a week dedicated to the observatory.