A group of engineers has offered a solution for people who want a direct line to aliens – by broadcasting their phone calls directly into space.
People wanting to contact extraterrestrial beings through www.TalkToAliens.com can dial a premium rate US number and have their call routed through a transmitter and sent into space through a 3.2-metre-wide dish in central Connecticut, US.
The service, launched on 27 February, will cost users $3.99 per minute, says Eric Knight, president of the company. He says that a large radio receiver – like the Arecibo dish in Puerto Rico – situated on a distant planet might be large enough for an alien civilisation to receive the calls.
The company is not aiming its antenna at specific stars with the potential to harbour life. Rather, they have opted to track across the Milky Way galaxy to cover a host of nearby stars.
Christopher Rose at Rutgers University in New Jersey, US, has studied the energy efficiency of beaming radio signals to outer space. He calculated an estimate for New Scientist that, at best, the signal from the phone calls could only be properly received about two light years away.
But the nearest star to our solar system is about four light years away: “Unfortunately, I suspect that customers of this service have little hope of getting their messages across,” Rose says.
Humans have been broadcasting radio waves for the better part of a century. “Anything you want to broadcast – that’s fine,” says Fred Walter, an astronomer at Stony Brook University, New York, US. “It’s just adding to the noise and the clutter.”
The company is not monitoring the phone calls to space but, on its website, people are asked to be “good Earth Ambassadors”. Knight adds: “I think people should use common sense and judgment, too.”
The service is run by a group of engineers, the Civilian Space Exploration Team, that launched the first civilian rocket into space on 17 May 2004. The uncrewed rocket reached an altitude 116 kilometres – the widely accepted cusp of space is at 100 km.