We should make Initial Contact: Researchers say it is time to look for Aliens

Humans should begin transmitting messages to planets in habitable zones in the hope that alien life-forms might hear us, researchers have said. Space specialists at the hunt for Extraterrestrial Life (SETI) project said the time has come to stop inactively listening for signs of intelligence in other worlds and aggressively start looking for contact.

SETI was discovered 20 years ago to monitor the universe for signals of alien life and includes astrophysicists from institutes like Harvard University and the University of California. Though as early 1960 researchers were scanning spaces for signs to other civilizations.

Douglas Vakoch, the Director of Interstellar Message Composition at the SETI Institute, said we should now begin planning a message to send to planets which have newly been found in the "goldilocks zone" – regions of space where it is neither too hot nor too cold for life to sustain.

"For over a half century, researchers involved in the hunt for extra-terrestrial intellect have hunted proof of the presence of other civilizations by searching for intentional radio signals," he said.

"As we move into the next half century we should enlarge our plans, so we are not only passively listening, but also sending intentional, information-rich signals.

"With new discoveries of Earth-like planets in the habitable zones of other stars, we have natural goals for such broadcast projects.

"We should frequently target a set of nearby stars over the course of numerous months or years.”

NASA’s Kepler Telescope has so far discovered more than 3,800 planets in inhabitable zones which could have liquid water, and life. Specialists say targeting them with a signal is the greatest hope of establishing contact with new worlds. Though the content of a message has been passionately debated. To find out what humans would like to say to aliens, SETI created a site called Earth Speaks and asked people to plan an interstellar message.

While women tended to offer friendship, and even coffee and biscuits in their missives, men were more likely to talk about science and inquire about their civilisation. Overall the main theme was asking for help from aliens rather than seeking to impart the wisdom of Earth. "Mr Vakoch" said humans have a "cosmic inferiority complex" and automatically assume that extraterrestrials will be more technologically advanced than us and so have nothing to learn.

Kepler Space Telescope captured tens of thousands of stars in the constellation of Cygnus and Lyra
But he added: "Humankind has a range of experiences and insights that cannot be imagined by any other civilization.

"Though extraterrestrials may be more technologically advanced we are, they will never be more human. It’s the breadth of our human experience that we should be conveying in our interstellar messages."

The specialists at SETI say that governments must begin working together to devise the message. The gear to send basic messages at present exists and researchers say that reluctance ‘more political than technical.

Seth Shostak, Senior Astrophysicist and Director, Center for SETI research, said some people repelled the approach, being afraid that it could alert our existence to unsafe extra-terrestrial races.

"It’s very controversial,” he said, “There are some people who think this might be unsafe.
"The notion that you are somehow exposing Earth I don't think holds any water as we have been broadcasting into space willy nilly since the Second World War – televisions, FM radio and radar.

"These signals have been going into space for 70-something years so they are quite far out and any society that could come to Earth and burn Belgium, if they think they deserve it, is completely capable of picking up these broadcasts.”

But he confesses that it is a gamble whether visiting aliens will come in peace.

“Nobody knows if they are friendly or not,” he added.

“You could be hopeful and think they are all friendly or figure they are like ones in the movies and hell-bent on destruction. I doubt there is a whole range.

“Earth has been sitting around for 4 billion years with life on it and nobody’s thought to terminate it.

“It may be they want to proseltyse. The other thing is that they are just attracted to the culture – that’s what’s extraordinary about us. Maybe they are attracted to rock ‘n’ roll. Maybe they want Cliff Richard.” Though American researcher and futurist "David Brin" considers it is a blunder to try and contact alien worlds. "We are the youngest of all technological races in the universe, like an orphan child who abruptly finds herself wandering a strange jungle that’s quiet, too quiet,” he said.

"Maybe you have the kind of personality that says: "What the heck! I might as well shout and see what happens!"

"That’s all very well if the only one you are putting at risk is yourself. But when that risk is also forced upon our children -- all of humanity and our planet – is it too much to ask that we debate it first?"

The researchers were speaking at the annual Association for the Advancement of Science AAAS annual symposium in San Jose.

Alien Life

Space Exploration

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