If you want to know what receiving an alien message would be like, you are in luck. A team of artists and scientists used a spacecraft around Mars to send a complex message to Earth, simulating what an alien message would be like. And now, it is up to everyone to decode it.
The project, A Sign In Space, was created by artist Daniela de Paulis. The message was sent from the European Space Agency’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) on May 24 at 7 pm UTC, and received 16 minutes later by the SETI Institute’s Allen Telescope Array, the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope at the Green Bank Observatory, and the Medicina Radio Astronomical Station observatory.
The files from each telescope have been uploaded to a dedicated Filecoin server that allows them to be downloaded from all over the world and to all of humanity. When you get to the file, do not be surprised if they are not neat little recordings you can play on your phone. These are actually the raw data files from the observatories.
This might seem a bit demoralizing at first. There are ways to analyze the files, but they require a bit of know-how on computers, GitHub, and coding. There are instructions on how to do it, if you want to give it a go.
But it is important that they are shared like this. Detecting an alien message would be revolutionary for humanity and research suggests that full disclosure is the best policy in a post-first-contact scenario.
People on the project Discord server are already working on it, so if interpreting radio signals is not in your skillset, we are certain someone will have the signal in an easier-to-deal-with format very soon.
The team behind the signal has stressed that they have created something that won’t be easily decoded and that will require people from many different backgrounds to come together to work out what the signal is all about.
For more insight into the project, SETI ran a whole event while waiting for the signal, speaking to de Paulis, members of the radio telescope teams, Exomars, as well as people who are just interested in getting involved.