Arecibo Message: Google Doodle on Friday celebrates the 44th anniversary of the Arecibo Message, a 1974 interstellar message carrying basic information about humanity and the Earth, sent to a cluster of stars 25,000 light years away from the green planet. The historic transmission was intended to demonstrate the capabilities of Arecibo’s recently upgraded radio telescope, whose 1000-foot-diameter dish made it the largest and most powerful in the world at the time.
Forty-four years ago today, a group of scientists gathered at the Arecibo Observatory amidst the tropical forests of Puerto Rico to attempt humankind’s first communication with intelligent life beyond our own plane, Google said.
The three-minute radio message- a series of exactly 1,679 binary digits (a multiple of two prime numbers) which could be arranged in a grid 73 rows by 23 columns- was aimed at the cluster of stars.
“It was strictly a symbolic event, to show that we could do it,” Donald Campbell, a Cornell University professor of astronomy, who was a research associate at the Arecibo Observatory at the time, told Google.
The message was written by Dr Frank Drake, then at Cornell University, with help from Carl Sagan, among others. The message itself could be arranged in a rectangular grid of 0s and 1s to form a pictograph representing some fundamental facts of mathematics, human DNA, planet earth’s place in the solar system, and a picture of a human-like figure as well as an image of the telescope itself.
The mankind will have to wait a long time for an answer, as the Arecibo Message will take roughly 25,000 years to reach its intended destination (a group of 300,000 stars in the constellation Hercules known as M13). In the 44 years since it was first transmitted, the message has traveled only 259 trillion miles, only a tiny fraction of the 146,965,638,531,210,240 or so miles to its final destination.
However, with the advent of science and space technology, our understanding of the cosmos has advanced by leaps and bounds, raising hopes that someone may be out there, listening.