Interstellar Time Capsule: Messages From Around the World to Be Beamed Into Space

February 12, 2016 | Joanne Kennell

radar pointed at the starry sky
Photo credit: Paul Quast

Add your own note to this celestial “message in a bottle.”

How would feel about sharing a message you have about the planet and the environment, and then having that message sent into space reaching its destination in 434 years?  Sounds pretty cool, right?

It is a cultural project called A Simple Response to an Elemental Message and it is a collaboration between the University of Edinburgh, the Royal Observatory of Edinburgh, and the UK Astronomical Technology Centre (UKATC) along with other partners.

It’s aim is to create an interstellar time capsule containing messages from around the world that are to be beamed into space at the speed of light.  In the fall of 2016, messages from the public will be converted into radio waves and broadcasted towards the North Star, Polaris, reaching their destination 434 years from now.

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This celestial “message in a bottle” will consist of people’s responses to a single question: how will our present environmental interactions shape the future?

Amazingly, 21 hours after transmission, the signal will have traveled further into space than Voyager 1, which was launched in 1977 and to date has travelled approximately 134 Astronomical Units (AU) or roughly 12,000,000,000 miles from Earth.  This is much further away from Earth than the sun or Pluto.

Project Coordinator and Edinburgh College of Art postgraduate student, Paul Quast, said Polaris was chosen as the destination for the messages because of its cultural significance as a reference point for navigators and star gazers.

The researchers will also use the responses to gauge if there are significant geographical differences in how people think about the environment and the future of the planet.

“We are at a pivotal point in this planet's history. Our present ecological decisions will have a massive impact on the future for all Earth's inhabitants. This project will create a culturally-inspired message in a bottle capturing global perspectives that will travel into space for eons,” said Quast.

If you would like to leave a message, you are invited to visit the official website, http://www.asimpleresponse.org, and leave your thoughts which will then be broadcast into the cosmos this Fall.

I know I will be leaving one!  Will you?

The website is available in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. German, Arabic, Russian and Mandarin will be available soon.

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