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Arecibo message
                                     

Arecibo message

The Arecibo message is a 1974 interstellar radio message carrying basic information about humanity and Earth sent to globular star cluster M13. It was meant as a demonstration of human technological achievement, rather than a real attempt to enter into a conversation with extraterrestrials.

The message was broadcast into space a single time via frequency modulated radio waves at a ceremony to mark the remodeling of the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico on 16 November 1974. The message was aimed at the current location of M13 some 25.000 light years away because M13 was a large and close collection of stars that was available in the sky at the time and place of the ceremony. The message forms the image shown here when translated into graphics, characters, and spaces.

                                     

1. Description

Frank Drake, then at Cornell University and creator of the Drake equation, wrote the message with help from Carl Sagan and others. The Arecibo message was meant as a demonstration of human technological achievement, rather than a real attempt to enter into a conversation with extraterrestrials. In fact, the core of M13, to which the message was aimed, will no longer be in that location when the message arrives. However, as the proper motion of M13 is small, the message will still arrive near the center of the cluster.

The message consists of seven parts that encode the following from the top down:

  • The numbers one 1 to ten 10 white
  • A graphic of the Solar System indicating which of the planets the message is coming from yellow
  • The atomic numbers of the elements hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and phosphorus, which make up deoxyribonucleic acid DNA purple
  • The formulas for the sugars and bases in the nucleotides of DNA green
  • A graphic of the Arecibo radio telescope and the dimension the physical diameter of the transmitting antenna dish
  • A graphic figure of a human, the dimension physical height of an average man, and the human population of Earth
  • The number of nucleotides in DNA, and a graphic of the double helix structure of DNA white & blue

The message consisted of 1.679 binary digits, approximately 210 bytes, transmitted at a frequency of 2.380 MHz and modulated by shifting the frequency by 10 Hz, with a power of 450 kW. The "ones" and "zeros" were transmitted by frequency shifting at the rate of 10 bits per second. The total broadcast was less than three minutes.

The number 1.679 was chosen because it is a semiprime the product of two prime numbers, to be arranged rectangularly as 73 rows by 23 columns. The alternative arrangement, 23 rows by 73 columns, produces an unintelligible set of characters as do all other X/Y formats.

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