Today a memorial is being held for the late physicist Stephen Hawking at Westminster Abbey in London – and following the service, his voice will be sent into space.
Hawking’s ashes will be interred between the graves of Charles Darwin and Sir Isaac Newton in the ground of the abbey. A thousand members of the public are attending the memorial service, chosen by lottery, along with the Hawking family and guests such as Benedict Cumberbatch, who played the physicist in the 2004 BBC drama Hawking.
"We are so grateful to Westminster Abbey for offering us the privilege of a Service of Thanksgiving for the extraordinary life of our father and for giving him such a distinguished final resting place," Hawking's children Lucy, Robert, and Tim said in a statement.
Hawking passed away in March this year at the age of 76, following a lengthy battle with motor neurone disease that was expected to kill him in his 20s. He died peacefully in his home, leaving behind his three children.
Following the service, Hawking’s voice will be sent to space using ESA’s Cebreros Station antenna located in Spain, which is normally used to communicate with spacecraft. Hawking’s voice has been set to an original score by Greek composer Vangelis.
According to CNN, the musical piece is about six-and-a-half minutes long, and contains a somber message about considering the importance of looking after Earth. It will take about 35 minutes to send the music into space, which will be released to the public at a later date.
"This is a beautiful and symbolic gesture that creates a link between our father's presence on this planet, his wish to go into space and his explorations of the universe in his mind," Stephen Hawking's daughter, Lucy Hawking, said in the statement.
The music will be beamed towards the nearest known black hole, called 1A 0620-00, located about 3,500 light-years from Earth in a binary system with an orange dwarf star. Hawking of course was famed for his theoretical work on black holes, including the proposal that some emit information in the form of Hawking radiation.
It’s unclear exactly what will become of the beamed message, although it’s likely it will orbit around the black hole, eventually being destroyed by the very radiation Hawking predicted – and that's pretty poetic.