When people talk about having contact with off-worlders, they usually imagine that a flying saucer, or some indescribable alien craft, would land on the grass of the ellipse near the White House. This was depicted in 1951’s The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Another scenario is that a huge extraterrestrial craft will park itself over the capital cities of the world’s major countries. Again, this scenario was depicted first in the television series V and later with the movie Independence Day.
Of course there is the other notion that first contact will be in some remote, secretive place like in Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. That film’s premise was a highly secretive coordinated landing and cultural exchange set at the Devils Tower in Wyoming.
Lastly, a vastly different approach, again from Steven Spielberg, was in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. In this situation, an alien craft would land in a wooded area outside a major city on some sort of survey mission. An alien crew member would get left behind and eventually meet up with a local boy and his family. This story presented the idea of contact with extraterrestrials on a less grand, non-government-organized event. Spielberg offered the notion that first contact could be with someone as simple as a young boy. At the heart of these stories is still one fundamental concept: The extraterrestrials have to be the initiators of contact with human beings.
What about the possibility of humans reaching out to the extraterrestrials, perhaps with a radio signal? Impossible you might suggest. Actually, in several ways human kind has done this all ready. Of course the first several notable events that sent radio signals into outer space were at best an unwitting accident.
In 1938, two German firms called Telefunken and Fernseh broadcast 72 hours worth of the Berlin Olympics over the airwaves using high-powered, high-frequency VHF television signals. The signals were intentionally targeted to remote locations in Berlin and in Potsdam to special viewing facilities called public television offices.
It should be noted that VHF radio signals do not bounce off of the Earth’s ionosphere like shortwave radio signals do. Because radio signals in the VHF frequency bands or higher pass through the Earth’s ionosphere, and they radiate into outer space. Since the late 1940s, all television broadcast stations that transmit on VHF and UHF frequencies or higher have radiated into space. Each of those signals carried our images, voices, words and our commercial messages into deep space.
In July and August of 1945, the United States military detonated the first of three nuclear devices. Nuclear explosions generate huge releases of energy. This massive energy release is emitted across the electromagnetic spectrum. The signal would have been considerably loud on all frequencies at once. These nuclear detonations were the first massive signals generated by humans. Moving outward at the speed of light, these signals would be capable of being received as wide-band RF noise many light years in distance. These nuclear burst signals communicated one simple message: Somebody is splitting atoms.
For over five decades, spanning from 1945 through 1996, approximately 2,000 nuclear test detonations were conducted. The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed in 1963, and for the next 30 years nuclear testing was slowly phased out. Since 1998 only India, Pakistan and North Korea have conducted any underground nuclear testing.
It should be noted that with each of those 2,000-plus nuclear tests caused a burst of wide-band radio frequency energy of massive power to go into outer space. Each time indicating simply that we’re still here, and we’re still splitting atoms.
In 1974 scientists at the Arecibo radio telescope in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, beamed a high-powered graphic message into space. The message contained encoded graphic information about humanity and Earth. The signal was transmitted at the Messier 13 (M13), which is a Globular star cluster. The intent was to communicate some basic information about our species. As a matter of note, the M13 cluster is 25,100 light-years away from Earth. It poses the question: Why didn’t they choose a closer star system like one that was within 50 years?
Next week we’ll discuss another approach to contact with extraterrestrials: Close encounters of the fifth kind.
If you are interested in joining a monthly UFO discussion group in the Onondaga County area, drop Cheryl an email at [email protected]. If you have a UFO sighting to report, you can use either one of the two national database services: nuforc.org or mufon.com. Both services respect confidentiality. Follow me on Twitter @American_Skies.