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Messages and music beamed to alien super-Earth

Beaming signals to GJ273 b
The target of the “Sonar Calling” binary-coded radio transmission is a planet known as GJ273 b. (METI International Illustration / Danielle Futselaar)

Scientists and artists have banded together to beam coded radio transmissions toward a star that has a potentially habitable planet, just 12.4 light-years from Earth.

“Sónar Calling GJ273b” is the latest effort to communicate with aliens, 43 years since the first attempt was made using the 1,000-foot Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico.

The “Sónar Calling” messages were sent on three successive days, Oct. 16-18, from the 32-meter EISCAT radio antenna in Tromsø, Norway, just inside the Arctic Circle. Each transmission was directed at peak power of 2 megawatts toward a red dwarf star known as GJ273, or Luyten’s Star, in the constellation Canis Major.

Astronomers say Luyten’s Star harbors a planet that’s more than twice as massive as Earth, in an orbit where water could conceivably exist in liquid form. “Sónar Calling” aims to communicate with any radio-savvy life forms on that planet, called GJ273 b.

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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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