Google celebrates 44 years of Arecibo message: Humankind’s first attempt to speak to ‘aliens’
The Arecibo Message is a 1974 interstellar radio message carrying basic information about humanity and Earth sent to globular star cluster M13 in a hope that extraterrestrial intelligence might receive and decipher it
Google is marking the 44th anniversary of the Arecibo Message, which is humankind’s first attempt to communicate with intelligent life beyond our planet, with a doodle.
The Arecibo Message is a 1974 interstellar radio message carrying basic information about humanity and Earth sent to globular star cluster M13 in a hope that extraterrestrial intelligence might receive and decipher it.
Forty-four years ago, a group of scientists gathered at the Arecibo Observatory in the tropical forests of Puerto Rico, sent the three-minute Arecibo Message at a cluster of stars 25,000 light years away from Earth.
“Their three-minute radio message — a series of exactly 1,679 binary digits (a multiple of two prime numbers) which could be arranged in a grid 73 rows by 23 columns — was aimed at a cluster of stars 25,000 light years away from earth,” Google said.
The broadcast holds significance because it demonstrated the power of the Arecibo radio telescope, which was the largest and most powerful in the world at the time.
The message was broadcasted using Arecibo’s megawatt transmitter attached to its 305-meter antenna, with the latter concentrating the transmitter energy by beaming it into a very small patch of sky.
The emission was equivalent to a 20 trillion watt omnidirectional broadcast and is said to be detectable by a SETI experiment just about anywhere in the galaxy, assuming a receiving antenna similar in size to Arecibo’s.
The Arecibo Message was devised by researchers including Carl Sagan from Cornell University led by Dr Frank Drake, the astronomer and astrophysicist responsible for the Drake Equation. The Drake Equation is used to estimate the number of planets hosting extraterrestrial life within the Milky Way Galaxy.
In the message, the bits are arranged into 73 lines of 23 characters per line (these are both prime numbers, and may help the aliens decode the message). The rectangular grid of 0s and 1s form a pictograph representing human DNA, some fundamental facts of mathematics, Earth’s position in the solar system and a picture of a human-like figure along with an image of the telescope itself.
As of now, the message would have traveled only 259 trillion miles.