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Searching for Alien Life, One Text at a Time

Jamesburg Earth Station
Jamesburg Earth StationPhotograph by Vern Fisher/ZUMA Press/Corbis

OMG! Ur where?!
Hit me up, Gleese-peeps! #spacerocks
Hey alien– Check out my junk!
U have Twitter there?
Can u abduct my jerk boyfriend?

From 18 light years away, the wisdom of our terrestrial crowds may look suspect. Any intelligent life forms in the neighborhood of Gliese 526—a red dwarf star thought to harbor planets with habitable, earth-like atmospheres—may rue June 18. That’s when a space-technology startup plans to start sending text messages and photos into deep space, toward the distant star. The company, Lone Signal, has leased a radio telescope to beam the messages, along with a carrier signal that explains Earth’s position, outlines the elements of the periodic table, and defines the hydrogen atom in binary code.