On November 16, 1974, a message was broadcast into outer space in the direction of the star cluster known as M13. It was intended for extraterrestrial intelligence.
The message was broadcast from the Arecibo Observatory (AO) in Puerto Rico. The AO was the largest, most sensitive radio dish telescope in the world. The message AO sent was a mere 1679 bits. (That's bits, not bytes!) It was arranged in 73 lines of 23 characters. (Note that 23 and 73 are prime numbers.) It was basically a bit-image of the Arecibo Telescope, a stick figure of a human, a representation of our solar system, DNA and some chemicals ... although, frankly, none of that is readily apparent looking at the image.
(AO has since been decommissioned after its science platform collapsed in on its dish on December 1, 2019.)
Nothing has come of that broadcast, but there is further interest in sending another, more complex message. To that end, researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory are proposing "An updated, binary-coded message has been developed for transmission to extraterrestrial intelligences in the Milky Way galaxy."
Again, the message will be binary encoded, but this time it will contain considerably more information. It will contain bitmap representations of prime numbers, math operators, exponential operators, algebra, particle physics, the spectrum of the hydrogen atom, DNA structures, the human form (both man and woman), our solar system, a flat map of Earth and some of its characteristics, and what frequency to communicate with us. It also includes our position in the Solar system.
The big question, however, is not really how to send the message, it's whether or not we should. The new message contains a lot of information that could be disastrous for humanity.
This article from the Smithsonian shows both the original 1974 message and two of the newer, proposed bitmaps. Quite interesting. (You'll find a link to the scientific paper in the supplementary comments. Only the abstract is presented; the full paper, with all bitmap representations, is available for download as a PDF.)
Here are some supplementary links related to the above topic …
Link to the same topic from Scientific American.
The original paper from JPL scientists on ARXIV ...
A Beacon in the Galaxy: Updated Arecibo Message for Potential FAST and SETI Projects
Freelance space journalist Jonathan O'Callaghan, writing for Quanta Magazine, does an excellent job explaining the "Faint Young Sun Paradox".
At issue is that our Sun was 30% dimmer 4.5 billion years ago, around the time Earth was formed. That meant that the water on Earth should have been frozen over, and life, therefore, shouldn't have developed. But it did, and that's the paradox.
To explain this, scientists have proposed several theories. At first, it was presumed the Sun was older than first thought. Then Carl Sagan suggested that ammonia in the atmosphere would have produced a greenhouse effect to keep the planet warm enough for liquid water. Scientists in the 1970s thought carbon dioxide was a likely explanation. Other theories followed.
Or perhaps during the Hadean eon (between 4.6 to 4 billion years ago) when an object crashed into Earth creating our Moon, the collision caused hot magma to flood the planet, thereby increasing the temperature substantially, taking millions of years to cool and, at the same time, resulting in liquid water. Evidence for this comes from oxygen found in zircon crystals.
It was about 4.1 billion years ago that life first appeared. Interestingly, biological carbon is also found in zircon crystals from that time period. It was about 2 billion years ago that the Sun started radiating enough warmth to allow liquid water.
Mr. O'Callaghan goes on to point out some speculation that the faint Sun may, actually, have been a blessing in disguise. Had the Sun been more luminous in its early time, water could well have been vaporized into the atmosphere, never allowing oceans to form. The oceans would have effectively boiled away.
In the end, Mr. O'Callaghan points out, "Somehow, conditions were just right on our planet, keeping us in this narrow window between being frozen solid and evaporating to oblivion." This is a long article, about a half-hour read.
Back on Nov 5, 2021, NASA approved a mission to study tropical storms. The mission is called “INCUS” which stands for “Investigation of Convective Updrafts”. It will consist of three small satellites, and the plan is to launch them in 2027.
It is known how storm clouds form: fast-rising water and air billow up into large clouds; the more water, the more likely it is that extreme weather will occur. The process is called “convective mass flux”. However, the physics of the rising air mass is not well understood at all, and that is what INCUS will address. Why do massive storms occur, and can they be predicted? (According to NASA, the cost is estimated at $177 million not including launch costs.)
The satellites will track in a formation. This approach is effective “by scanning side to side across the satellite path, allowing it to examine much more than the single slice …”
Colorado State University proposed INCUS and competed against other, similar projects. CSU will be the main investigator along with JPL and other collaborators. Instruments from another project recently completed by CSU for NASA, called TEMPEST-D and RainCube, will be a part of the satellites in the INCUS configuration.
Also of interest is the amount of data INCUS is expected to collect. Terabytes of it. That data will be stored by the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere (CIRA), a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) research center. (I’ve posted about the upcoming storage requirements of NASA before.)
This is a fairly long article from CSU. I’ve also added the original November 5, 2021 NASA INCUS press release in the comments.
NASA’s Nov 5, 2021 press release link:
Extra link: NASA Selects New Mission to Study Storms, Impacts on Climate Models
An interesting new "space" conference was held on April 14, 2022, at the University of North Dakota. In fact, it was only the 2nd "Space Ag" conference. That stands for "Space Agriculture". As you can infer, it's all about using space tech to benefit farming.
The Space Ag Conference is sponsored by the "Grand Farm Education and Research Initiative". Grand Farm is itself an agriculturally-focused collaborative organized by a large business-development group in North Dakota called "Emerging Prairie". (I've added links to both below.)
According to the Grand Forks Herald (GFH), only 250 people attended, and that includes online attendees. And it is only a half-day event! Quite small for a space-related conference, but it is new, after all. Upon reflection, I thought, "This could actually become a big thing. It should become a big thing."
The Grand Farm Conference website says, "Space agriculture, and the technology it creates, could catalyze the development of high-yield crop production that requires less land and less energy, providing farmers with the ability to create more with less."
Andrew Jason is Ecosystems Director for Grand Farm. This GFH article summarizes his viewpoint this way: "Jason said his goals for the conference ... include highlighting the impact of technology such as satellites on farming. Other goals included showcasing business opportunities, as NASA looks to partner with companies that can deliver technology that further its designs in space. Jason said he also wanted to show future farming technologies to students, to excite the minds of the next generation of agricultural producers."
I looked up the speakers from the Grand Farm website. It's impressive. Senator Kevin Cramer gave the Keynote. Other speakers included NASA scientists and reps from both the space and agricultural industries.
Watch this event grow in the future.