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Hello From Earth: Australia’s First Interstellar Message

Listen to “e172 Hello From Earth: Australia’s First Interstellar Message” on Spreaker.

Article by Wilson da Silva                        November 13, 2019                         (abc.net.au)

• A decade ago, the organizers of Australia’s National Science Week wanted to promote its annual ten day event and they dreamed up the project called ‘Hello From Earth’. The project would be a “Twitter to the stars” where they would collect short personal messages from the public, package them into a single transmission, and send them to the nearest habitable planet beyond our solar system. Now, ten years since the NASA transmission of these goodwill messages, they have passed the halfway mark on their long journey through the cosmos.

• The ‘Hello From Earth’ organizers chose as its communication target a “super-Earth” orbiting the habitable zone of its parent star 20.4 light-years away known as Gliese 581d. The interstellar Tweet was scheduled for August 28, 2009, utilizing three facilities within NASA’s Deep Space Network that together represented the largest and most sensitive scientific telecommunications system in the world. They included a transmission facility near Madrid, Spain, another in Barstow, California, and the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex in Australia. The transmission was repeated twice over two hours with a combined power of over 300 billion mobile phones at once.

• “[T]here’s no statute covering interstellar messages, and no-one has jurisdiction over transmissions,” said Paul Davies of Arizona State University who also chaired SETI’s Post-Detection Subcommittee. While there is no permission required to transmit an interstellar message, responding to an extraterrestrial signal requires the approval of the SETI Subcommittee. But even the transmission of signals into space will upset some people who consider it unwise and potentially catastrophic to invite an alien invasion. As humans have been inadvertently transmitting signals into space since the 1930s from television broadcasts to military radar, most scientists don’t object to interstellar texting. Technologically advanced extraterrestrials would already know we’re here.

• In 1974, the Arecibo Radio Telescope in Puerto Rico was the first to intentionally broadcast an interstellar message to a star 25,000 light years away. There have been 31 such messages sent out to the cosmos. One was sent in 2008 from the facility outside of Madrid to commemorate the 50th anniversary of NASA. It also happened to be the 40th anniversary of the recording of the Beatles song, “Across the Universe”. Hence it was selected for transmission — with approval from Paul McCartney, Yoko Ono, and Apple Records. The song was transmitted to Polaris, “the North Star” 431 light years away.

• NASA approved the ‘Hello from Earth’ proposal just eight days before the start of National Science Week. Organizers quickly built a website and invited people to offer messages for transmission. Australia’s science minister, Kim Carr, submitted the first message: “Hello from Australia on the planet we call Earth. These messages express our people’s dreams for the future. We want to share those dreams with you.” The website was bombarded with visitors from all over the world. In all, 25,880 messages were encoded into a binary signal at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and sent into space. (See a sampling of the messages below)

• NASA insisted on a very high level of decorum in the cosmic messages: nothing remotely suggestive, no risque humor or anything aggressive. When, in 1973, NASA sent a plaque with the Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 space probes, it included an illustration of a naked man and woman. NASA received complaints from members of US Congress, and newspapers ran letters objecting to NASA “exporting pornography to the stars”.

• It’s mind-boggling that we sent goodwill messages from a random selection of humans to a potentially habitable planet that might have a technical civilization. The chance that the messages reach an intelligent civilization on the distant exoplanet is highly unlikely, but it’s not zero. If a reply does come, it will arrive decades from now.

• What would you say to an alien civilization on an Earth-like planet far, far away? Here are some of the messages that were sent in August of 2009:

– “Greetings from a girl on Earth who, every so often, looks up at the night sky and waves hello in the hope that someone on another planet is doing the same.” – Sophie of Longmont, Colorado

– “If you come to Earth, look into: music, the beach, ice cream, hugs, family, love, dancing, cheese, trampolines, friendship, books and dreams. Just for a start.” – Tamasin, Richmond, Australia

– “If someone is reading this, I hope that our children will someday have the privilege of meeting one another.” — Tegan Larsen, San Antonio, United States

– “What do you see when you look up into the sky? Do you feel small and lonely, just like us? From now on, I can assure you one thing: you are not alone. Be happy.” – Sergio Camalich, Hermosillo, Mexico

– “Hello Baba, if you are out there I love you and hope you are watching me. I wonder if when you died you went to this planet.” — Liam Oliver, Coogee, Australia

– “All our petty disputes, disagreements and wars fade into insignificance when we consider our tiny world’s place in the cosmos.” — Silvio Zarb, Melbourne, Australia

– “There is only one thing bigger than this vast universe, the desire to discover. I hope I discovered you.” — T.S.M., Skopje, Macedonia

– “My aim of contacting you is to seek your assistance in transferring the sum of thirty-five million US dollars out of Nigeria and into your trusted bank account abroad.” – Hapatikiatwengo, Australia

– “Hi there. Sorry about the Outer Limits; hope you enjoyed I Love Lucy. Have you got all our missing socks? Love, Earth.” — Fred Mason, Roberts Creek, Australia

 

What would you say to an alien civilisation on an Earth-like planet far, far away?

“Greetings from a girl on Earth who, every so often, looks up at the night sky and waves hello in the hope that someone on another planet is doing the same.”

This message from Sophie of Longmont, Colorado, in the United States, is just one of almost 26,000 sent from Australia to an Earth-like planet 20 light-years away.

It’s been a decade since NASA transmitted these goodwill messages, and this week the transmission passed the halfway mark on its long, lonely journey through the silent cosmos.

The project, called Hello from Earth, began as a science communication campaign to get people excited about Australia’s National Science Week.

Those of us running the annual 10-day event were looking for an idea that would create a buzz on social media.

We decided on a kind of “Twitter to the stars”. We would collect short messages from the public and transmit them to the nearest habitable planet beyond our solar system.

Each message would be short, later packaged into a single transmission and sent using one of NASA’s facilities.

Our target was Gliese 581d, a “super-Earth” orbiting the habitable zone of its parent star.

First detected in 2007, studies in 2009 suggested it could have large oceans.

And since it was 20.4 light-years away, it would help give people a real appreciation of just how big the universe is.

“If you come to Earth, look into: music, the beach, ice cream, hugs, family, love, dancing, cheese, trampolines, friendship, books and dreams. Just for a start.” — Tamasin, Richmond, Australia

‘It might trigger an invasion’

When I suggested the idea, the bureaucrats involved with National Science Week were intrigued, if a little sceptical, but asked me to explore it.

                          Paul Davies

In the months that followed, I had conversations with sometimes quizzical senior CSIRO staff, leading astronomers and US government officials, negotiating terms and agreeing to specifications.

Surprisingly, we didn’t need approval to transmit an interstellar message — but we would have if we wanted to respond to an extraterrestrial signal.

You can understand why: if an extraterrestrial signal is received, you can’t have everyone with a high-gain antenna answering back.

So who speaks for Earth? That turned out to be the SETI Post-Detection Subcommittee, which at the time was chaired by astronomer Paul Davies of Arizona State University, an old friend and former colleague.

“What do you think?” I asked in an overnight phone call after explaining Hello from Earth.

“Will we breach any unwritten rules in the scientific community?”

“Well, there’s no statute covering interstellar messages, and no-one has jurisdiction over transmissions,” Davies said from his home in Tempe, Arizona.

“But it will upset some people.”

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FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. ExoNews.org distributes this material for the purpose of news reporting, educational research, comment and criticism, constituting Fair Use under 17 U.S.C § 107. Please contact the Editor at ExoNews with any copyright issue.

A Glint Of Light And A Hint Of Life: Mars Is Getting Very Interesting Right Now

by Ed Mazza                  June 24, 2019

• On June 16th, as NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover lumbered across the plains of Mars, a glowing object was captured on camera hovering just above the Martian surface (pictured above). Another camera image taken 13 seconds after showed nothing.  (see 38-second video below)

• When a similar flash of light made headlines in 2014, Justin Maki of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said, “In the thousands of images we’ve received from Curiosity, we see ones with bright spots nearly every week.” Maki wrote them off as cosmic-ray hits or sunlight glinting off of rock surfaces.

• Days later, the rover detected possible microbial life on or inside the planet as indicated by a large spike in methane. While conducting further analysis, NASA said the rover had detected methane in the past and that the planet seems to have seasonal peaks and dips. NASA is coordinating with the scientists working with the European Space Agency’s Trace Gas Orbiter, which is orbiting Mars, to find the origin of the gas.

 

NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover spotted a strange glowing object that seemed to hover just above the surface of the Red Planet earlier this month.

While the glint on Mars has captured the imagination of folks on social media, it was likely just sunlight, a cosmic ray or a camera artifact. But in an unrelated development days later, the rover detected something else ― and it could be a long-sought signal of possible microbial life on or inside the planet.

The glowing object was captured on camera ― look at the right side of this raw image taken from the NASA website on June 16.

It doesn’t appear on any of the images snapped before or after, taken about 13 seconds apart, so if it was an object of some kind it moved quickly. More likely, however, it was nothing too out of the ordinary.

“In the thousands of images we’ve received from Curiosity, we see ones with bright spots nearly every week,” Justin Maki of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in 2014 when a similar flash of light made headlines. “These can be caused by cosmic-ray hits or sunlight glinting from rock surfaces, as the most likely explanations.”

So, the flash of light was unlikely to be a sign of activity on the planet.

But something else was detected on Mars last week that just might be a sign of life: methane. The New York Times reported that Curiosity detected a spike in methane, which, if confirmed, could hint of microbial life hidden beneath the surface of Mars.

38-second video of light seen hovering over Mars’ surface by Curiosity Rover (‘Amaze Lab’ YouTube)

 

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FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. ExoNews.org distributes this material for the purpose of news reporting, educational research, comment and criticism, constituting Fair Use under 17 U.S.C § 107. Please contact the Editor at ExoNews with any copyright issue.

End of Days? What Happens if Antarctica’s Giant Cavity-Filled Glacier Melts?

February 21, 2019                   (sputniknews.com)

• Researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have discovered that the 74,000 square mile (192,000 square kilometre) Thwaites Glacier in Western Antarctica is melting and has created a huge ‘glacial cavity’ at the bottom of it containing 14 billion tons of frozen fresh water. And it is still melting at an “explosive” rate.

• This demonstrates that Antarctic ice is not only melting in areas adjacent to oceans, but also from underneath its thick ice sheets. Were the Thwaites Glacier to melt completely, it could cause global sea levels to rise by some two feet. Such a rise would be enough to threaten coastal cities around the globe, flooding island nations and leading to soil erosion. Lucas Zoet, a science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s department of geoscience, fears that the collapse of the Thwaites Glacier “could potentially destabilize the whole region of West Antarctica.” And this doesn’t include the concurrent ice melt from other parts of Antarctica, the Arctic and Greenland.

• Last year, researchers from Germany, Austria and Australia released a study which concluded that with sea levels expected to rise two feet worldwide by the year 2300, low-lying areas of Florida and Bangladesh, and entire nations such as the Maldives in the Indian Ocean or Kiribati in the Pacific, would be threatened, with massive coastal urban areas such as Shanghai, London, New York, and New Orleans affected as well.

• The Thwaites ice formation also serves to prevent other nearby glaciers from sliding toward the sea. If that happens and those glaciers melt, sea levels would rise not by two feet, but up to ten feet, affecting areas of human habitation much further inland and causing even more chaos to local ecosystems.

• Researchers from the Antarctic Research Centre at New Zealand’s Victoria University of Willington and McGill University in Canada have recently published an article in Nature which warned that the billions of tons of freshwater melt flowing into the oceans from melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica would cause the global oceanic conveyor belt network to diminish, resulting in longer, more extreme hot or cold snaps, wet spells and dry stretches, and greater temperature variance throughout the world.

• According to Dr. Ted Scambos, a senior research scientist at the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre, “The point is not so much [in] whether or not it’s going to happen… the important thing is how fast is this going to happen.” (see 4:58 minute CBS News video on the Antarctic glacial melt below)

[Editor’s Note]  It appears that, in addition to a much more rapid rate of rising sea levels, the continent of Antarctica might sooner reveal the remnants of a non-human civilization concealed underneath the ice.

 

The glacial cavity, found at the bottom of a glacier in western Antarctica with the use of ice-penetrating radar and satellites with high-resolution lenses, was discovered by researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who called the find “disturbing” and warned that the mysterious cavity, once containing 14 billion tonnes of frozen fresh water, was still growing at an “explosive” rate. The discovery is vital, the scientists said, because it demonstrated that Antarctic ice is melting not only in areas adjacent to oceans, but also from underneath its thick ice sheets.

Rising Sea Levels

The immediate and most obvious concern about the discovery is that if the Thwaites Glacier, which extends some 192,000 square kilometres, or 74,000 square miles, were to melt completely, it could raise global sea levels by some 2 feet (0.6 metres). According to the Smithsonian Institute, such a rise would be enough to threaten coastal cities around the globe, flooding island nations and leading to soil erosion.

Last year, researchers from Germany, Austria and Australia released a studywhich concluded that with sea levels expected to rise two feet worldwide by the year 2300, low-lying areas of Florida and Bangladesh, and entire nations such as the Maldives in the Indian Ocean or Kiribati in the Pacific, would be threatened, with massive coastal urban areas such as Shanghai, London, New York, and New Orleans affected as well.

If rising sea levels come to pass sooner than expected thanks to new, previously unknown phenomena, like the Thwaites Glacier cavity, “that’s going to really throw a wrench into the ability for these nations to plan and prepare for the impacts of sea level rise,” Dr. Ted Scambos, a senior research scientist at the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre, told USA Today.

Fleets of Dangerous Icebergs?

In addition to its massive store of frozen fresh water, the Thwaites ice formation is thought to serve as an important ‘door stop’, preventing nearby glaciers from sliding toward the sea. If that happens and those glaciers melt, sea levels would rise not by two feet, but up to ten feet (three metres), affecting areas of human habitation much further inland and causing even more chaos to local ecosystems.

In this sense, Thwaites “holds a kind of wildcard for being able to increase the rate of sea-level rise quite rapidly if things unfold a certain way,” Scambos said.

In addition to their possible threat to local wildlife, icebergs breaking off from Antarctica could pose a major threat to human oceanic activities, particularly shipping. In 2018, New Zealand news portal Engineering News warned that Antarctic icebergs were already posing a heightened hazard to southerly shipping routes. A year earlier, the US Coast Guard’s International Ice Patrol warned shipping companies that an unusually high number of icebergs were drifting into shipping lanes in northern areas, with the monitoring agency reporting four seasons of “extreme” danger in a row due to bergs drifting through the North Atlantic.

And while Antarctic icebergs are seen as less of a threat than those forming in the Northern Hemisphere and the Arctic, given existing shipping lanes, they still pose a threat, according to scientists.

4:58 minute CBS News video on the unprecedented Antarctica glacial melt

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