News: Texting with the stars

By Amy Middleton 18 August 2009
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Thousands of people are sending text messages to the potential inhabitants of a star across the universe.

Half way through National Science Week 2009, and already 18,000 human beings have taken the time to compose a text message to prospective aliens on an earth-like star 20 light years away.

Some of the messages are now live on the website – where people can register their greetings to life forms that may exist in another neighbourhood of our vast universe.

The collected messages, to be transmitted from the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, are estimated to reach their destination – a star called Gliese 581d – around December 2029.

Gliese 581d, discovered in April 2007, is believed to be within the ‘habitable zone’ of its star – an astronomical concept that theorises that the possibility of liquid water forming could allow for the existence of life forms, on planets such as ours.

NASA will aid the venture by encoding the text file at their Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, USA, prior to final transmission from the Australian capital.

The website’s ongoing feed of the amounting messages provides a worldwide cross-section of those who are enthused to send an intangible greeting to the unknown. Many are genuine:

“Hope you receive this message as it could mean the start of something magnificent – With awe and respect from Earth.”
– Theresa, Canberra

Some are quite moving:

“Hi.I am Gilbert From Australia I hope we can be friends. You might seen a lot of wars here on Earth but that is Fine, we ll be friends Eventually.”
– Gilbert, Sydney

And of course, the absurd:

“Is there good fishing on Gliese 581D? If yes, please send GPS waypoints & tide times. Reciprical waypoints will be provided for Australian coastal waters.” – Kim, Sydney

And Australia is generally well represented:

“You are cordially invited to an Interplanetary BBQ.
6.00pm, 4th October, 2452 at my place
BYO Meat and Beer.
RSVP: Year 2100
– Daniel Edmonds, Melbourne

With creative possibilities as far-reaching as our apparent space communication ability, the program is online fun for all ages, and a great illustration of this national festival’s value in getting Aussie kids enthusiastic about science.

Website available here.

What’s next?
GALLERY: Space exploration
GALLERY: Hubble Telescope photography
News: Digital side of the moon