The Stream

If aliens reach out to Earth, what happens next?

On Thursday, June 1 at 19:30 GMT:
With at least 100 billion galaxies in our observable universe, astronomers have long scanned the skies, looking for signs of life beyond Earth.

But if an alien civilisation actually sent a message to us, what would happen next? Would humans have the proper technology or knowledge to even decipher it? These are some of the questions being asked as part of a simulation organised by the research group SETI, or Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.

The project, known as “A Sign in Space,” is a practice run for humanity’s first contact with extraterrestrial intelligence. It was initiated last week when a planned interplanetary signal was beamed to radio telescopes on Earth from a European Space Agency spacecraft orbiting Mars. Now it’s up to humans to crack the code and translate it to the world. SETI has invited the public to join the problem-solving event via its Discord page.

What would it mean for humanity if scientists were to find a genuine signal from an advanced extraterrestrial civilisation? And who decides if we should respond back?

Once deemed a fringe area of scientific study, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence has gained prominence in recent years thanks to powerful new scientific instruments, the growth of exoplanet discoveries, and new radio telescope observatories that are sweeping the skies for anomalous signals.

In this episode of The Stream, we’ll speak to those involved in the continued search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:
Daniela De Paulis, @danieladepaulis
Project founder, “A Sign in Space”

Chenoa Tremblay, @Chenoachem
Researcher, SETI Institute

Franck Marchis, @AllPlanets
Senior planetary astronomer, SETI Institute