01 September, 2023

40 Years Later: Did Our Message to Altair Reach Intelligent Life?

Astronomers in Nagano are eagerly awaiting a potential response to a message they sent into space 40 years ago, which was transmitted in 1983 to the star system Altair, situated 16.7 light-years away from Earth. The message, composed of 13 drawings illustrating the history of Earth, human appearances, and other informational content, was a part of a space-themed project commemorating the 15th anniversary of the Shonen Jump comic anthology. This endeavor holds symbolic significance, with the chosen date for monitoring being August 22, coinciding with the July 7 Tanabata star festival on the lunar calendar. In this festival, the celestial lovers Altair and Vega, represented by the cowherd and weaver respectively, are said to reunite across the Milky Way.

The project is led by Shinya Narusawa and a team from the University of Hyogo, who will employ a sizable 64-meter antenna located in Saku, Nagano Prefecture, to detect any potential radio signals in response to the 1983 message. This attempt to communicate with possible extraterrestrial intelligence aligns with the belief that intelligent life should exist somewhere in the vast universe, especially given the discovery of numerous exoplanets since the 1990s. Furthermore, the project pays homage to Masaki Morimoto, a pioneer in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) field, who was part of the team responsible for the original message. Hisashi Hirabayashi, another contributor to the project, is now a professor emeritus at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

The Message to Altair

On the lunar calendar, Tanabata falls on August 22 this year, making it an apt time for this endeavor. The astronomers are set to observe radio signals for one hour starting at 10 p.m. on that date. This project exemplifies humanity's enduring curiosity about the existence of extraterrestrial life, with the astronomers standing by in hope of receiving a response from the depths of the cosmos. The symbolic connection to the Tanabata festival adds a layer of cultural significance to this scientific pursuit, drawing upon age-old tales of lovers separated by the celestial expanse and their annual reunion, mirroring our yearning for contact beyond our world.



*written by chatgpt / xeno


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