A collection of scientists and philosophers are planning to send messages into space in the hope that alien civilizations will find and hear them, and view the recent discovery of a planet around the nearest star to the Sun, Proxima b, as a good place to start.
Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI), as the group is called, is starting a discussion about what the messages should say, with the intention to begin sending in 2018. However, many others remain deeply opposed to sending a message at all, raising the question of who has the right to speak for Earth.
In 1974, the Arecibo radio telescope sent a message to the globular star cluster M13. In 1977, the famous Golden Record was sent on the Voyager spacecraft for any alien to find it. These were, however, almost entirely symbolic gestures. The chance of aliens noticing a short and narrowly focused signal, or a tiny craft in the vastness of space was very low. Our unintentional signals are far more likely to give us away.
METI is planning a far more systematic approach. They have started fundraising to buy time on a powerful transmitter, or to build their own, to send extended signals with as much power as we can muster. They will be holding two conferences in 2017 to discuss what the message should contain and where it should be sent.
There are considerable obstacles to the presence of advanced life on Proxima b, but as the closest possibly inhabited world to our own, this is one place METI is considering directing a signal, Mercury News has reported. In the unlikely event of an advanced civilization there, it is also one place close enough for us to hold a conversation, albeit one with eight-year breaks between asking a question and getting an answer.