Google is celebrating the 44th anniversary of the Arecibo message with its Google Doodle. It was the first message that humans sent out in the space. According to the details, it was the first attempt by humanity to communicate with intelligent life out in space. It is known as “Arecibo Message” because scientists created and sent the message from the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. This ‘historic transmission’ was meant to be a demonstration of the capabilities of the recently upgraded radio telescope at the Observatory. For context, the 100-feet in diameter dish of the radio telescope made Arecibo the largest and most powerful at the time.
Taking a closer look at the message sent, it was a three-minute long radio transmission which sent a series of 1,679 binary digits. These digits were multiple of two Prime numbers that could be arranged in a grid with 73 rows and 23 columns. The message can be arranged in “a rectangular grid of 0s and 1s to form a pictograph” of fundamental mathematics facts, human DNA, the location of Earth in our solar system, “a picture of a human-like figure” and a photo of the telescope.
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The message was created by a team of researchers from Cornell University with the assistance of popular astronomer, cosmologist, and astrophysicist Carl Sagan. The team was lead by Dr. Frank Drake, an astrophysicist, and astronomer who was responsible for the “Drake Equation” that was used to estimate the number of planets that were capable of hosting extraterrestrial life in the Milky Way galaxy.
The message was “aimed at a cluster of stars 25,000 light years away from earth”. This means that the message has a long way to reach its destination. The intended destination of the message is a group of about 300,000 stars in the Hercules constellation also known as M13. To do the math, the message has only reached 259,000,000,000,000 (259 trillion) miles which is a tiny fraction of the total journey that will be about 146,965,638,531,210,240 miles long.
According to the Google Doodle page that shared the details about the doodle, Donald Campbell, a Cornell University professor of astronomy who worked as a research associate at the Observatory at the time, “It was strictly a symbolic event, to show that we could do it”. To add to this, the research lead, Drake also added that the entire idea of sending the message qualified as “spectacular” that researchers could do at the time.