Scientists are determined to contact sentient beings that might be out in space, going so far as to send a message to any that may exist.
However, an answer may take 25 years to arrive, if at all. Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI) International sent out an encoded message using radio waves called “Sonar Calling GJ273b,” which Doug Vakoch, the organization’s president and founder, believes intelligent life could decipher, New York Post reports.
“[The message is] distinctive because it’s designed with extraterrestrial SETI scientists in mind. We sent the sort of signal we’d want to receive here on Earth,” Vakoch said.
METI, along with Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), has missions to understand and communicate “the societal implications and relevance of searching for life beyond Earth, even before detection of extraterrestrial life.”
The San Francisco-based METI also conducts programs to “foster increased awareness of the challenges facing our civilization’s longevity,” among other things.
METI sent its message towards the red dwarf star GJ 273, or Luyten’s Star, which is 12 light-years away from Earth, sent in October from the Eiscat transmitter in Norway. The encoded message included details like basic science and math, and data on how humans understand time.
The organization’s founder said,
In a reply message, I would first want to know that the extraterrestrials understood what we said in our first message. The easiest way to do this is to repeat our message, but in expanded form. We tell them that ‘1 + 1 = 2.’ They could let us know that they understand that ’10 + 10 = 20.’
Any response would take at least 25 years due to the distance the message has to travel. The exoplanet was chosen because of its visibility from the northern hemisphere, although it may not be the closest potentially inhabited planet to Earth – that is Proxima b.
While hopeful, Vakoch says it’s possible humans may never hear back from another civilization, if there are any. “Practically speaking, if we get a signal from Luyten’s Star, it will mean the Milky Way is teeming with life. It’s certainly possible. It seems more likely that we’ll need to target not just one star, but hundreds, thousands, or even millions before we get a reply back.”