CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) — Part science experiment, part art project — A simulated alien message that the public will help decode is being broadcasted from Mars to some of Earth’s largest radio observatories, including the Green Bank Observatory in Pocahontas County, on Wednesday.
The project, named “A Sign in Space,” is asking the question, “How would Earth respond if we received a message from an extraterrestrial civilization?” The experiment is being led by Daniela de Paulis, a self-described media artist and licensed radio operator. At 3 p.m. EST, the European Space Agency’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) in orbit around Mars will transmit an encoded message to Earth to simulate a real message from an alien civilization.
Sixteen minutes later, three of Earth’s radio telescopes will receive the message: Green Bank Observatory, SETI Institute’s Allen Telescope Array (ATA) in northern California and the Medicina Radio Astronomical Station in Italy. In an interview with 12 News, de Paulis said the project has been in the works since 2019, and in that time, the Green Bank Observatory has become the most prominent radio telescope in the project.
“The Green Bank Telescope is the largest steerable telescope in the world, and also they do fantastic SETI search, really cutting edge SETI search in collaboration with Breakthrough Listen,” de Paulis said. “So it was definitely a facility that had to be involved to have a project that could be credible in the field of SETI search.”
De Paulis said it is hard to describe what the message data will look like once the public gets their hands on it, but much of the coding aspect will be tackled by participants who have a scientific or technical background. However, the actual interpretation of the message is open to everyone.
“Anyone who wants to send their thoughts, their speculations about the possible meaning of this message, they can contribute. They can send files, images, whatever they think is the best way to communicate their thoughts.”
If you want to get involved in the A Sign in Space project, the launch event will be streamed on YouTube at 2 p.m. EST. After the message data arrives on Earth, it will become available to the public at the A Sign in Space website.