This City Wants Space Aliens to Come Visit

Coded message sent to TRAPPIST-1 solar system welcoming ETs to Lexington, Kentucky
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 15, 2024 7:34 AM CST
This City Wants Space Aliens to Come Visit
Robert Lodder, seen beaming the message into outer space.   (Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau, via Washington Post)

If you've never visited Lexington, the Kentucky city wants your business—especially if you're from out of this world. That's why the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau (aka VisitLEX) beamed a message in October to the TRAPPIST-1 solar system, described by VisitLEX as "home to the largest number of potentially habitable, Earth-sized planets currently known," per the Lexington Herald-Leader. "This is the first time that we as a species have ever sent out a travel ad inviting aliens to come visit," linguistics expert Dr. Brenna Byrd notes in a VisitLEX video. The message, which will take four decades to reach its target audience 40 light-years away, was sent from the Kentucky Horse Park, with an OK from the FAA.

University of Kentucky chemistry instructor Robert Lodder—who has long been involved with the nonprofit SETI League in its search for extraterrestrial intelligence and who served as a consultant on this project—says he and his team wanted to transmit "a progression of messages from easy to hard," which they did via an infrared laser with a specially coded transmission, per "The bitmap image is the key to it all," linguistics expert Andrew Byrd says in a release. "We included imagery representing the elements of life, our iconic Lexington rolling hills, and the molecular structure for water, bourbon, and even dopamine ... because Lexington is fun!" Some, however, say the transmission is a bit of an advertising long shot.

Andrew Siemion of the SETI Institute says even if ETs are out there, they'd need to have their instruments pointed directly our way to receive the transmission when it finally arrives. "If they weren't looking in our direction in 40 years, at that particular hour, then they would miss it," he tells the Washington Post. Still, VisitLEX associates have their fingers crossed. "Here's our chance to really demonstrate that we are a beautiful culture, a beautiful community, and that we want to share that, with the galaxy," team member Dr. Kishonna Gray says in the group's video. If aliens do respond to Lexington's signal, most of us won't be around to find out: Due to the hundreds of trillions of miles between our solar system and TRAPPIST-1, that RSVP will be at least 80 years from now. (More strange stuff stories.)

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