Lexington scientists and scholars beamed a message to Earth-sized planets 40 light years away
A Kentucky tourism board is trying to attract new visitors — extraterrestrial ones — by sending a message to other planets.
The Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau (VisitLEX) recruited local scientists and scholars to beam the message to outer space using an infrared laser. They targeted any alien lifeforms potentially living on Earth-sized planets orbiting the TRAPPIST-1 star 40 light years away.
The message, which they sent from Kentucky Horse Park with approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, included a coded bitmap image containing clues to the origin and intent of the transmission, an audio recording from blues musician Tee Dee Young and photos of Lexington.
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“The bitmap image is the key to it all,” Dr. Andrew Byrd, a linguistics expert at the University of Kentucky, said in a news 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.”
PEOPLE reached out to VisitLEX, which created an “Extraterrestrial’s Guide to Lexington,” for more details about the campaign.
The online guide includes a countdown for when the message might reach aliens as well as a quote from Dr. Brenna Byrd saying, “Come to Lexington! We have horses and bourbon. Just don’t eat us.”
Scientists and scholars — lead by extraterrestrial-intelligence search expert Dr. Robert Lodder — noted that the message will reach the targets in nearly 40 years, meaning any response from extraterrestrial lifeforms wouldn’t arrive for roughly 80 years.
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“Lexington would be a great place to make first contact,” Lodder said in the guide. “You can land your spacecraft here. You can see the Bluegrass. You may even be able to ride a horse, depending on how big you are.”
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