The past couple of weeks Hearing International has explored auditory clues that may suggest that extraterrestrials have either been to Earth contributing to our society and/or are attempting to communicate with us from various parts of the universe. As our final Hearing International week with extraterrestrials, we will review how WE may be offering auditory clues to the extraterrestrials in our attempt to communicate with them. Our story begins with a look at radio telescopes.
A radio telescope is a form of directional radio antenna used in radio astronomy. These are the same type of antenna that are used in tracking and collecting data from satellites and space probes. In their astronomical roles they differ from optical telescopes in that they operate in the radio frequency portion of the electromagnetic spectrum where they can detect and collect data on radio sources. Radio telescopes are typically large parabolic or dish antennas used in isolation or in an array. Radio observatories are preferentially located far from major centers of population to avoid electromagnetic interference (EMI) from radio, TV, radar, and other EMI emitting devices; similar to locating of optical telescopes in rural areas to avoid light pollution. The difference is that a radio observatory is often placed in a valley to further shield them from EMI as opposed to clear air mountain tops used for optical observatories.
The first radio antenna used to identify an astronomical radio source was built by Karl Guthe Jansky, an engineer at Bell Telephone Laboratories (audiologists are very familiar with the contribution of Bell Telephone labs to speech and hearing science), in 1931. In his job at Bell Telephone, Jansky’s task was identifying sources of static that might interfere with radio telephone service. His antenna was an array of dipoles and reflectors designed to receive short wave radio signals at a frequency of 20.5 MHz (wavelength about 14.6 meters). It was mounted on a turntable that allowed it to rotate in any direction, earning it the name “Jansky’s merry-go-round”. It had a diameter of approximately 100 ft (30 m). and stood 20 ft (6 m) tall. By rotating the antenna on a set of four Ford Model-T tires, the direction of the received interfering radio source (static) could be pinpointed. A small shed to the side of the antenna housed an analog pen-and-paper recording system. After recording signals from all directions for several months, Jansky eventually categorized them into three types of static: nearby thunderstorms, distant thunderstorms, and a faint steady hiss of unknown origin. After some research he finally determined that the “faint hiss” repeated on a cycle of 23 hours and 56 minutes. This period is the length of an astronomical sidereal day, the time it takes any “fixed” object located on the celestial sphere to come back to the same location in the sky. Thus, Jansky suspected that the “hiss” originated well beyond the Earth’s atmosphere, and by comparing his observations with optical astronomical maps, he was able to conclude that the radiation was coming from the Milky Way Galaxy and was strongest in the direction of the center of the galaxy, in the constellation of Sagittarius.
The communication process begins with a trip to Big Ear Radio Observatory (BERO) site also known as the Ohio State University Radio Observatory (USURO), discussed in Part II of this series. A Kraus-type radio telescope, Big Ear covered an area of about 3 football fields and was famous for the WOW! communication discussed last week and thought to be one of the only real scientifically supported alien communications. BERO was also the longest running SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Project. Located about 30 miles north of Columbus in Delaware, Ohio; the lab was in existence for almost 40 years before it was destroyed in 1998 to make room for 400 homes and an 18 hole golf course.
Probably he most famous mission that was undertaken to communicate with extraterrestrials was the NASA Voyager program. The primary mission of the Voyager 1 was the exploration of Jupiter and Saturn. After making a string of discoveries there — such as active volcanoes on Jupiter’s moon Io and intricacies of Saturn’s rings — the mission was extended. Voyager 2 went on to explore Uranus and Neptune, and is still the only spacecraft to have visited those outer planets. Pioneers 10 and 11, which preceded Voyager, both carriedsmall metal plaques identifying their time and place of origin for the benefit of any other spacefarers that might find them in the distant future. With this experience, NASA placed a significantly more ambitious message aboard Voyager 1 and 2-a kind of time capsule, intended to communicate a story of our world to extraterrestrials.
The message aboard both Voyager 1 & 2 is carried by a phonograph record-a 12-inch gold-plated copper disk containing sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth. The contents of the record were selected for NASA by a committee chaired by Carl Sagan of Cornell University. Dr. Sagan and his associates assembled 115 images and a variety of natural sounds, such as those made by surf, wind and thunder, birds, whales, and other animals. To this they added musical selections from different cultures and eras, and spoken greetings from Earth-people in fifty-five languages, and printed messages from President Carter and U.N. Secretary General Waldheim. Each record is encased in a protective aluminum jacket, together with a cartridge and a needle. Instructions, in symbolic language, explain the origin of the spacecraft and indicate how the record is to be played. The 115 images are encoded in analog form. The remainder of the record is in audio, designed to be played at 16-2/3 revolutions per minute. It contains the spoken greetings, beginning with Akkadian, which was spoken in Sumer about six thousand years ago, and ending with Wu, a modern Chinese dialect. Following the section on the sounds of Earth, there is an eclectic 90-minute selection of music, including both Eastern and Western classics and a variety of ethnic music. The Voyager spacecraft left the solar system beyond the orbit of Pluto in 1990 and is now in empty space. It will be forty thousand years before they make a close approach to any other planetary system. As Carl Sagan has noted, “The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced spacefaring civilizations in interstellar space. But the launching of this bottle into the cosmic ocean says something very hopeful about life on this planet”.
So…… over the past few weeks, Hearing International has explored auditory clues to extraterrestrials and our sending of auditory clues to them. In parts I & II there were discussions of possible auditory clues to controversial ancient alien visits. Hearing International explored these communications and even some actual recordings from relatively reliable and scientific sources. This was an HHTM journey full of interesting, semi-mysterious and unexplained, yet suspect internet postings, recordings and theories. While there are credible individuals that have conducted interesting and scientific research into UFOs, alien encounters, ancient astronauts, and other extraterrestrial issues, it is a major task to sort through the usual array of kooks, the easily impressed and others that are, as one source put it, “unemployed plumbers that are now experts on UFOs”.