The famous radio message sent into outer space, which could be physically interpreted as a drawing of a man and woman and of our solar system, has been updated for a new era. Gone are the stick figures of yesterday- today’s aliens may be more discriminating. Just in case aliens from space have good taste in music, NASA will be sending them a Beatles song.
Polaris, also known as the North Star, will be getting “Across the Universe” beamed to them via radio signals. The star is 2.5 quadrillion miles from Earth, and the song will take 431 years to get there. Anyone listening in on the signal will have to have an antenna to pick up the signal. A receiver will be needed to convert the signal back into music.
Radio signals are considered a basic form of communications, and the one most likely to be picked up by alien civilizations. SETI, the non-profit group seeking alien signals from space, actively searches for radio signals for this reason. Radio signals have been sent from Earth for decades, though it is unknown whether any of them have been received by anyone non-human. Radio signals will likely continue to be sent, in various forms and with various messages, until science is able to confirm the existence of alien civilizations. Deep Space Network, NASA’s space communications agency, will be sending the signal.
Why the Beatles?
This year marks the 40th anniversary of Across the Universe, as well as the 50th anniversary of the space agency NASA. The deal was arranged between NASA and the owners of the song, Paul McCartney, Yoko Ono and Apple, by a Beatles historian. Martin Lewis was able to secure permission from the owners and to sell NASA on the idea. The song, at almost four minutes, was transmitted from Spain.
According to the Associated Press, McCartney relayed the message, “Send my love to the aliens. All my love, Paul,” through the historian.
Across the Universe is also the name of a movie released on DVD the day before the radio broadcast. Whether that had any impact on what song was chosen is unclear, though the title of the song and the radio signal’s purpose are also likely reasons for the choice.
Across the Universe originally appeared on Let it Be. The song can now be heard on compilation albums, including a remake on the Across the Universe soundtrack album.