Friday, August 14, 2009

Text Messaging To The Stars

When you think of text messaging to the stars, you may fantasize about exchanging messages with Hollywood celebrities. Here’s an opportunity that goes farther. Oh, it goes much, much farther. Actually, 20 light years farther.

Gliese851 photo courtesy NASAYou. Yes, you, genuine member of humanity, can be part of a grand text broadcast to another planet. It’s called “Hello From Earth. Send a message to the nearest Earth-like planet outside of our Solar System.” All you have to do is visit the Hello From Earth Website and enter your text message (registration now closed) to the great beyond. In about 20 years it will arrive at the planet Gliese 581d in the constellation Libra, where surprised and delighted ETs will have their little hearts warmed by your message of greeting and affection.

That’s assuming they have little hearts. They may not be so little and they may not have hearts at all. Truth is, we have no idea who we might be cosmo-tweeting or what their reaction might be. Most people figure they can’t go wrong with messages of peace. Some have even invited anonymous aliens to visit our fair planet, even their house.

Not me. I grew up on “The Outer Limits”, “Twilight Zone” and “Science Fiction Theater.” These predated the “Alien” series of movies, but offered similar cautionary tales. Sure, you might be trolling to get some really weird additions to your Facebook friends. But what if all you’re really doing is awaking some sleeping giants? Worse, what if they are bored with their usual cuisine and on the lookout for a new place to dine? That’s why the message I’m sending is:

“Don't even think about eating us. We taste terrible and are poisonous to extra terrestrial life forms.”

Laugh it off if you like, but just remember “To Serve Man” turned out to be a cookbook. If that makes no sense, Google it and learn the shocking truth.

Now that you’ve been warned, take a few minutes to think up something appropriate to message the citizens of Gliese 581d. I’ll bet they have a better name than that for their planet. They probably have us listed as Zorkzik 9267k. Won’t it be a hoot if we both call our planets Earth?

So, who’s behind this Interplanetary Internet communications project? It’s none other than COSMOS magazine. They think it is a cool way to promote National Science Week in Australia and the International Year of Astronomy. At the end of Science Week, NASA is going to transmit all the messages they’ve accepted via the Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex in Tidbinbilla.

Then all you have to do is wait about 40 years (20 to get there and 20 back) to see what Gliese 581d has to say. My guess is that once they know we’re here we’ll start getting a flood of intergalactic spam. Unless, of course, their bodies are actually made out of Spam. Then who’s going out for dinner?

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