Hello, Is Anybody Out There?

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Science, Earth and Space Science

Grade 5- 8

Objective

Students will design a message describing our planet and solar system to be sent into space to intelligent life beyond our solar system and galaxy.

Directions

Background
Recent searches have discovered a planetary system around a distant star. Most scientists believe that there are many other planetary systems in the universe. Some of these may have planets with intelligent life forms. The vast distances between our planetary system and others prevent our traveling there in present-day spacecraft. Radio waves traveling at the speed of light can be sent and received by radio telescopes. Earthbound scientists sent a message from Earth in 1974 via a gigantic radio telescope located in Puerto Rico. They also use radio telescopes to listen for any radio waves which may be sent by intelligent life. Thus far, no messages have been received. Even at the speed of light, these messages need to travel thousands of years to reach their destinations.
Another way of communicating to these distant locations is to attach messages in the form of pictures and sound to satellites launched to outlying planets in our solar system. Such messages have been sent aboard the Voyagers 1 and 2 and Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft that went to the outer planets. These satellites are now on their way out of the solar system and may, even thousands of years from now, encounter a life form which can "read" our messages.
Preparation
Place pictures of our solar system on the bulletin board and books on display for easy access.
Procedure
Divide the students into scientific teams and distribute Space Messages sheets to them.
For Discussion
Scientific teams should read and discuss the information sheet.
Each team should develop a plan for creating their message. They should be encouraged to use electronic devices such as video cameras, tape recorders and computers.
Follow Up
Let the scientific teams exchange data sheets and attempt to decipher another team's message.

Resources

  • Space Messages information sheet (page 20)
  • Optional: video camera, tape recorder, computers
  • drawings and books showing our solar system and planets

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