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Messages beamed to aliens amid debate over perils

Cebreros Station
The European Space Agency’s Cebreros Station in Spain transmitted an 866-second encoded radio message in the direction of Polaris, 434 light-years away. (Credit: ESA)

More than 3,000 messages were beamed toward the North Star today by a powerful radio telescope – and although the exercise was largely symbolic, it serves to revive a debate over whether we should be trying to contact aliens.

Today’s transmission by the European Space Agency’s Cebreros deep-space tracking station in Spain was the culmination of a yearlong effort known as “A Simple Response to an Elemental Message,” spearheaded by Irish-born artist Paul Quast.

With support from ESA and other organizations, Quast and his collaborators solicited 3,775 text-only messages from around the world in response to this question: How will our present environmental interactions shape the future?

The 14-minute digital transmission with all those answers was beamed toward Polaris, the North Star, at 8 p.m. GMT (1 p.m. PT).

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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