Scientists Just Sent Messages To A Nearby Exoplanet: What Is METI?


A team of scientists sent a message to an exoplanet merely 12 light-years away. The message included music and math lessons and could reach the exoplanet in about a dozen years.

Hello, Universe

Last month, a team of artists and scientists beamed out a message to exoplanet GJ 273 in hopes of interacting with intelligent alien life on the planet. Evidently, the team transmitted the message to GJ 273 over a span of three days and included math tutorials, 33 musical compositions, technology, and instructions on how the recipient may respond.

GJ 273 is a gas giant located in Luyten's star, which was discovered just this year. It is an M-type star that takes 18.6 days to completely orbit its star. Should the transmission successfully reach the exoplanet in approximately 12 years and there actually are intelligent life forms who will wish to respond, their response could possibly be expected 25 years from now.

"It is a prototype for what I think we would most likely need to do 100 times, or 1,000 times, or 1 million times," said Douglas Vakoch, president of Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI), on the project's goal of laying a foundation for the future.


Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is a community that aims to understand life beyond Earth. They often focus on watching out for signals or messages from extraterrestrials. METI has similar goals except they take things a bit further by actually initiating interstellar communication with intelligent extraterrestrial life that may wish to respond.

METI's methods are quite controversial, however. For one thing, some have suggested that the method could expose our existence to hostile alien life, posing serious consequences. In response to this concern, Vakoch states that the likelihood of reaching out to an intelligent civilization capable of attacking Earth and yet uncapable of detecting our radiation leaks from televisions and radios are quite remote.

Sending Out A Message

The project is a collaborative work with METI International, Sónar, and the Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia. They transmitted their message in binary code at two radio frequencies using the European Incoherent Scatter Scientific Association (EISCAT) in Norway last Oct. 16, 17, and 18.

The Luyten star system was chosen because of its proximity to Earth as well as its potential of being a habitable planet. The team is evidently planning to send another message for the second phase of "Sónar Calling GJ 273b," this time sending expanded tutorials.

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