An ambitious new SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) test is underway.
At 3:00 p.m. EDT (4:00 p.m. GMT) today (May 24), Europe’s Trace Gas orbiter March probe sent a coded message to Earth. Sixteen minutes later, it was received by three large radio telescopes on Earthlaunching a global effort to crack the cryptic signal.
That effort is A Sign in Space, a multi-week project led by Daniela de Paulis, the current artist-in-residence at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, and the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia.
“Throughout history, humanity has sought meaning from powerful and transformative phenomena,” de Paulis said in a press release.
“Receive a message from an alien civilization would be a deeply transformative experience for all of humanity,” she added. “A Sign in Space offers the unprecedented opportunity to tangibly rehearse and prepare for this scenario through global collaboration, fostering an open search for meaning across cultures and disciplines.
Related: The search for extraterrestrial life (reference)
The Green Bank Observatory is one of the three scopes that listened to the Trace Gas Orbitertoday, as well as the SETI Institute’s Allen Telescope Array in northern California and the Medicina Radio Astronomical Station in northern Italy, which is operated by the Italian National Institute of Astrophysics.
Researchers at each of these facilities will now process the signal and make it available to their colleagues around the world and to the general public. The project team wants people from a variety of backgrounds to study the signal and try their hand at deciphering it.
“This experiment is an opportunity for the world to learn how the SETI community, in all its diversity, will work together to receive, process, analyze and understand the meaning of a potential alien signal“said Wael Farah, project scientist for the ATA, in the same statement.
“More than astronomy, communicating with ET will require a wide range of knowledge,” Farah said. “With A Sign in Space, we hope to take the first steps towards bringing a community together to meet this challenge.”
You can read more and submit your own thoughts on the post via the project website.
You can also participate in A Sign in Space in other ways.
For example, over the next six to eight weeks, the project team will host a series of Zoom meetings that will focus on societal implications to detect a “technosigature” of advanced extraterrestrial life, among other topics.
You can find out more about these workshops and register to attend, here.