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Can You Decode This "Alien Message"?


Tom Hale

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

Senior Journalist

229 Can You Decode This "Alien Message"?
René Heller/Max Planck Institute Solar System Research

Picture this: Aliens have sent you a series of pulses from a star about 50 light-years from Earth. The pulses are in the form of short/long signals and they are received in a very narrow band around an electromagnetic frequency of 452.12919 MHz, which can be translated into a binary code that looks like this. Your task is to decode it.

This is the hypothetical puzzle set by René Heller, an astrophysicist at the Max Planck Institute Solar System Research (MPISSR). In a post on the MPISSR website, he asked the Internet to decode the message and answer the following questions:


1. What is the typical body height of our interstellar counterparts?
2. What is their typical lifetime?
3. What is the scale of the devices they used to submit their message?
4. Since when have they been communicating interstellar?
5. What kind of object do they live on?
6. How old is their stellar system?

Heller says he’ll give out three hints to the solution as per request. Other than that, there’s very little guidelines and next to no rules other than the answer must be in a “human-readable format”.

He also openly encourages discussions and collaborations through social media. If you want to get involved, check out the Twitter hashtag #SETIDecryptChallenge. There are a few Reddit threads that are discussing the puzzle, too.

If you managed to crack the answers, send him a message via e-mail (, Twitter, or Facebook. Successful crackers will be announced on June 3.


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