Ever wanted to text message an alien? Maybe send a selfie? Yeah, me too. Well now you can, thanks to a project called Lone Signal, which launches on Tuesday. Calling itself the "first continuous, collective, and cohesive [Messaging to Extraterrestrial Intelligence] METI experiment of its kind," Lone Signal will transmit messages into space, targeting "strategically selected stellar systems" that contain potentially habitable planets. The first target is the star system Gliese 526, one of the closest to our Sun, and anyone can send a free message.
Previous examples of METI or Active SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), have just been one time bursts of data, whereas Lone Signal will be continuous.
The famous Drake equation, written in 1961 by the astronomer Frank Drake who performed the first modern SETI experiment, is a formula for estimating the number of intelligent extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way. And these are what Lone Signal aims to make contact with.
The data will be broadcast from the Jamesburg Earth Station in Carmel Valley, California, to Gliese 526, which is 17.6 light years away from Earth. The project is run by a group of scientists and entrepreneurs, and the public is invited to participate by sending messages to the first target for free (they plan to charge for subsequent submissions).
The transmission will consist of two signals, one binary signal beaming information about the Earth and our Solar System, and the other sending the messages from people on Earth. Lone Star co-founder Pierre Fabre says that the "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."
An analysis of the benefits and harms of METI noted that the potential benefits likely outweigh the potential harms and concluding that "even if we never succeed in receiving a message from an extraterrestrial civilization, METI may still prove a worthwhile investment as a way to increase humanity’s awareness of itself in the greater cosmos.
People have already begun submitting their messages, including one person who is "Looking forward to having coffee with E.T." And conceptual artist Kim Asendorf has even designed the first GIF to be transmitted into space. Sadly though, no cats in it. Hardly seems representative of GIFs without a cat in it.
Those who choose to send a message to their favorite alien will only have to wait until about 35.2 years from now to expect a response. So what would you say?