Today is the 44th Anniversary of the Arecibo Message; Mankind’s Attempt to Contact E.T.

This November 16 marks the 44th anniversary of the so-called Arecibo message, which contains information about our position in space, our solar system, Earth, and us as a species inhabiting it.

The Arecibo message was an attempt to contact any advanced alien civilizations in the universe.

The ‘Alien Message’ had a length of 1679 bits and was sent in the direction of the star cluster called M13.

This Google Doodle highlights the 44th anniversary of the sending of the Arecibo message. Image Credit: Google.
This Google Doodle highlights the 44th anniversary of the sending of the Arecibo message. Image Credit: Google.

This celestial object, located in the direction of the constellation of Hercules, at a distance of about 25,000 light years, consists of some 400,000 stars.

“It was a strictly symbolic event, to show that we could do it,” Cornell University professor of astronomy Donald Campbell recalled of the momentous event.

The message was designed by Frank Drake, Carl Sagan, and others.

The Arecibo Message was transmitted at a frequency of 2380MHz, the message consisted of 1,679 binary bits representing ones and zeros arranged in a grid 73 rows by 23 columns.

This is the message with color added to highlight its separate parts. The actual binary transmission carried no color information. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
This is the message with color added to highlight its separate parts. The actual binary transmission carried no color information. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

There are 8 possible configurations (the 8 symmetries of the same pattern) that show a non-random drawing.

As noted by experts, the message could be arranged in a grid 73 rows by 23 columns to form a pictograph that contains information about mathematics, human DNA, planet earth, and humans, fundamental chemicals of life as well as a depiction of the Arecibo Telescope used to transmit the message.

More specifically, the message contains the following:

  1. The numbers one (1) to ten (10) (white)
  2. The atomic numbers of the elements hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and phosphorus, which make up deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) (purple)
  3. The formulas for the sugars and bases in the nucleotides of DNA (green)
  4. The number of nucleotides in DNA, and a graphic of the double helix structure of DNA (white & blue)
  5. A graphic figure of a human, the dimension (physical height) of an average man, and the human population of Earth (red, blue/white, & white respectively)
  6. A graphic of the Solar System indicating which of the planets the message is coming from (yellow)
  7. A graphic of the Arecibo radio telescope and the dimension (the physical diameter) of the transmitting antenna dish (purple, white, & blue)

Composed by 1679 bits, a “0” is represented by an “off” radio pulse, while a “1” is represented by an “on” radio pulse. This is the message in ones and zeroes.

0000001010101000000000000101000001010000000100100010001000100

1011001010101010101010100100100000000000000000000000000000000

0000011000000000000000000011010000000000000000000110100000000

0000000000101010000000000000000001111100000000000000000000000

0000000001100001110001100001100010000000000000110010000110100

0110001100001101011111011111011111011111000000000000000000000

0000010000000000000000010000000000000000000000000000100000000

0000000001111110000000000000111110000000000000000000000011000

0110000111000110001000000010000000001000011010000110001110011

0101111101111101111101111100000000000000000000000000100000011

0000000001000000000001100000000000000010000011000000000011111

1000001100000011111000000000011000000000000010000000010000000

0100000100000011000000010000000110000110000001000000000011000

1000011000000000000000110011000000000000011000100001100000000

0110000110000001000000010000001000000001000001000000011000000

0010001000000001100000000100010000000001000000010000010000000

1000000010000000100000000000011000000000110000000011000000000

1000111010110000000000010000000100000000000000100000111110000

0000000010000101110100101101100000010011100100111111101110000

1110000011011100000000010100000111011001000000101000001111110

0100000010100000110000001000001101100000000000000000000000000

0000000001110000010000000000000011101010001010101010100111000

0000001010101000000000000000010100000000000000111110000000000

0000001111111110000000000001110000000111000000000110000000000

0110000000110100000000010110000011001100000001100110000100010

1000001010001000010001001000100100010000000010001010001000000

0000001000010000100000000000010000000001000000000000001001010

00000000001111001111101001111000

(source)

Since we sent out the message, 44 years ago today, it has ‘only’ traveled 259 trillion miles – a fraction of its journey (of around 146,965,638,531,210,240 miles) to its intended destination, which will take roughly 25,000 years to complete.

Once the message arrives at its intended destination, and someone actually decides to write back, we would have to wait another 25,000 years in order to receive the message.

Also, the star cluster where we sent out the message, M13, will by then have already moved to another position as part of the galaxy’s normal rotation period. Nonetheless, the message will continue traveling through space, eventually reaching distance galaxies in the universe.

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