Astronomers are eagerly awaiting a possible response to a message sent into space 40 years ago. The message, sent on August 15, 1983 by Stanford University professors Masaki Morimoto and Hisashi Hirabayashi, consisted of 13 drawings illustrating the history of the development of life on Earth, our solar system and the structure of DNA. Now a team led by Shinya Narusawa of Hyogo University in Japan believes that the earliest response from intelligent life may come about now, if it was heard by someone living near the star Altair.
Altair, located about 16.7 light-years away in the constellation Aquila, is the 12th brightest star in the night sky. Mr. Narusawa explains that a large number of exoplanets have been discovered since the 1990s, and it is possible that Altair has a planet capable of supporting life. This has sparked the team’s interest in looking for a response from intelligent beings near Altair, writes Japanese publication The Asahi Shimbun
The team will use the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) antenna in Saku, central Japan, at 22.00 local time (2.00 BST) tonight to scan the sky for a possible answer. For an hour, they will listen to the sky, hoping to detect a signal that could confirm the existence of extraterrestrial life.
The choice of August 22 for this event has symbolic significance. In Japan, Tanabata, also known as the “festival of the stars,” is celebrated on July 7 on the lunar calendar. Since Tanabata is celebrated today on the lunar calendar, the team chose this date for their search.
The original message was sent in celebration of the anniversary of the weekly comic Shonen Jump. Professor Morimoto, who played a crucial role in sending the message, passed away in 2010. Dr. Hirabayashi, author of books on intelligent extraterrestrial life, is currently a professor emeritus at JAXA.
While anticipation is building, it is important to note that no exoplanets have been detected in Altair’s orbit. Therefore, any answer received would be an even bigger surprise. However, NASA has observed that Altair is spinning so fast that its midsection is stretched out, resembling a compressed beach ball.
The search for extraterrestrial life hasn’t been out of the headlines lately, with congressional hearings on Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena (UAP), and Harvard professor Avi Loeb’s research on mysterious meteorites found on the ocean floor. While some researchers are focused on finding evidence of extraterrestrials on Earth, experts around the world are also directing their attention to the stars in search of even the slightest signs of extraterrestrial life.
Moreover, there is a possibility that signs of life could be found within our own solar system. The European Space Agency’s Juice mission and NASA’s Europa Clipper mission are heading to Jupiter’s icy moons to search for signs of life. These missions are due to arrive in 2030. In addition, Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus was recently discovered to contain all the elements necessary for life in its subsurface oceans.
As the world waits to hear back from Altair, it is holding its breath in anticipation of what this discovery could mean for our understanding of the universe and the existence of extraterrestrial life.