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.






























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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