Scientists Are Asking Kids To Help Them Contact Extraterrestrials

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At the Arecibo Observatory, researchers are inviting kids from around the world to send messages to transmit into space.

Forty-five years ago, scientists at Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory sent humanity’s first interstellar message with the intent of making contact with alien life. The first Arecibo Message, as it was called, was sent using a 1,000 foot-wide telescope and contained basic information such as the size of the human population and the location of Earth.

Now, although the likelihood of extraterrestrial beings receiving such messages is low, researchers are holding a contest for youth from around the world to design the New Arecibo Message. Kindergarteners to 16-year-olds can register in teams of up to 10 until March 20 to potentially have their message broadcasted in space.

When asked why kids are the best people for the job, Arecibo researcher Alessandra Abe Pacini told Vox that “Sometimes the scientists are so focused on their topics and they can see stuff very deep but they cannot see very broad. Students know a little bit about everything, so they can see the big picture better. For sure they can design a message that is actually much more important.”

Whether the Arecibo scientists will actually broadcast the winner’s submission depends on the quality of the proposals. But the main goal of the contest isn’t to make contact with E.T.--it’s to get kids interested in space science and inspire a collective feeling of humanity, despite our differences.

The researchers encourage messages that deal with topics across disciplines, a sentiment echoed in the guidelines, which recommend using social media to find teammates from around the world.

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