Basic Astronomy

Lone Signal: now you can send your message to Extraterrestrial Civilization

11 June 2013: Now you can say hello to Extraterrestrial Civilization. Not only that, you will be also able to send your customized message to a specific target in the space.

Scientists were listening for long time to search for indications of other civilized life in the Universe but there are very few effort to send purposefully signal from Earth for those Extraterrestrial Civilization to help them find and understand us. Earlier METI (Messaging to Extraterrestrial Intelligence) or Active SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) projects took place where messages were just one-time bursts of info - or "pulses in time".

Lone Signal
The Jamesburg Earth Station radio dish in Carmel, California. This dish will be used to send the Lone Signal messages to space. Image credit Lone Signal.

A group of scientists and entrepreneurs. led by Haqq-Misra, are launching a new initiative called "Lone Signal" which is designed to send the first continuous mass "hailing messages" out into space. This program will start later this month. Specifically, they will target one star system, Gliese 526, which has been identified as a potentially habitable star system.

The good part of the program is the fact that the general public can also participate in it. Haqq-Misra confirmed during a press event on June 11, 2013, that "from the start we wanted to be an experiment where anyone on Earth could participate,". Lone Star co-founder Pierre Fabre explained during the event "our scientific goals are to discover sentient beings outside of our solar system. But an important part of this project is to get people to look beyond themselves and their differences by thinking about what they would say to a different civilization. Lone Signal will allow people to do that."

Lone Signal will be using the recommissioned radio dish at the Jamesburg Earth Station in Carmel, California. The same dish was used to carry the Apollo Moon landings live to the world.

Lone Signal campaign will be sending two signals: one is a continuous wave signal, a hailing message that sends a slow binary broadcast to provide basic information about Earth and our Solar System using an encoding system created by astrophysicist and planetary scientist Michael W. Busch. The binary code is based on mathematical "first principles" which reflect basic established laws that are relatively constant throughout the universe - things like the structure of the hydrogen atom and gravity, etc.

"This hailing message is a language we think could be used to instigate communication," explained Haqq-Misra, "and is the most advanced binary coding currently in use," he added.

The second signal will be embedded with the first signal and will contain messages from the people of Earth.

Since Gliese 526 is 17.6 light years from Earth, the messages from lone signal will be beamed to the coordinates where the star will be in 17.6 years from now. Even though no planets have been found yet in this star system, the Lone Signal team believe existence of planets in the star system since missions like Kepler and Corot have found that most stars host multiple planets.

The Lone Signal team will allow common public with access to the Internet to send a 144 character text based message, the equivalent of one free text message or Twitter message - into space. The team want to have messages from people all around the world to provide messages that are "representative of humanity."

One need to pay very small amount of money for anything additional, like more messages, images, etc. This fund will help to support the project.

"In effect we are doing our own Kickstarter and doing the crowd funding on our own," explained Lone Signal CEO Jamie King. "Lone Signal would not be possible without crowd sourcing support, which will be used for maintaining the millions of dollars in equipment, powering the dish, running the web portal and other critical tech that makes the project possible."

If you are interested to be part of the project and be a "beamer" you can currently sign up at the Lone Signal website. If you submit your "beam" with Lone Signal, you will be able to "echo" it on your Twitter and Facebook accounts.

After a user sends their initial free message, Lone Signal will be offering paid credit packages for purchase that allow users to transmit and share longer messages as well as images using credits in the following USD price structure:

  • $0.99 buys 4 credits.
  • $4.99 buys 40 credits.
  • $19.99 buys 400 credits.
  • $99.99 buys 4000 credits.

Following the initial free message, each subsequent text based message will cost 1 credit and image based messages will cost 3 credits. Each message will be sent as an individual packet of information and won't be bundled with other messages.

Though some critics believes that sending messages out into space might pose a risk by attracting unwanted attention from potentially aggressive extraterrestrial civilizations, Haqq-Misra thinks the benefits outweigh the potential hazards. He, along with his team have written a paper about the concept.

"We want to inspire passion for the space sciences in people young and old, encourage citizens of Earth to think about their role in the Universe, and inspire the next generation of scientists and astronauts," said Ernesto Qualizza, Lone Signal chief marketing officer. "We're really excited to find out what people will want to say, and the science of METI allows people to do this - to think about more than their own backyard."

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