Alien Signal from Mars Decoded After One Year


Just over a year ago, a mysterious message from Mars challenged people worldwide.

Created by Daniela de Paulis, Artist in Residence at the SETI Institute, this encoded message aimed to simulate an alien signal.

Despite its earthly origin, it truly came from another planet, transmitted by the European Space Agency’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO).

The signal was sent on May 24 at 7 pm UTC and received 16 minutes later by the SETI Institute’s Allen Telescope Array, the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope at the Green Bank Observatory, and the Medicina Radio Astronomical Station observatory.

Over 4,000 people around the globe joined the quest to decode the message, making it a unique and highly collaborative scientific endeavor.

The Decoding Breakthrough

On June 7, a father-daughter team, John and Sarah (pseudonyms), cracked the code.

They considered that the message might relate to a renowned computational model called the cellular automaton, specifically Conway’s Game of Life.

This model, where pixels are either “alive” or “dead,” can create complex scenarios from basic rules.

Using the Unity game engine, John and Sarah processed the binary message through 6,625 transformations to reveal its meaning.

The result? An image of five amino acids, the building blocks of life. These were represented by blocks of pixels, each indicating different elements: hydrogen (1 pixel), carbon (6 pixels), nitrogen (7 pixels), and oxygen (8 pixels).

The breakthrough came after an exhaustive and meticulous approach. John and Sarah used their combined expertise in computer science and game development to interpret the binary code.

The process involved running thousands of simulations, each time slightly tweaking the parameters to see if any recognizable pattern emerged.

Finally, they identified the pattern of amino acids, a significant discovery in the context of the experiment.

What Does It Mean?

This discovery is just the beginning. De Paulis envisioned this project, called A Sign In Space, as a way to mimic the challenges humanity would face if we received an actual alien signal.

Now, the task is to interpret the signal. Why these specific amino acids? What could they signify?

The choice of amino acids in the signal is intriguing. Amino acids are fundamental to life on Earth, forming proteins and playing a critical role in biological processes.

The specific amino acids depicted in the message might hold clues about the potential for life elsewhere or could be a way to establish a common ground for understanding between different forms of life.

The project invites participants to consider various interpretations.

Could the message be suggesting the presence of life-sustaining elements on Mars, or is it a symbolic gesture pointing to universal biological principles? These questions are open for exploration and debate.

Join the Discussion

De Paulis invites everyone to join the ongoing discussion on the project’s Discord server.

Over 54,000 messages have been exchanged since the project began, and the team hopes even more people will join to share their thoughts and theories about the signal from Mars.

The Discord server has become a vibrant community where scientists, enthusiasts, and curious minds converge.

Participants from diverse backgrounds bring unique perspectives, enriching the conversation and driving the collective effort to understand the signal.

For those interested in decoding, interpreting, and discussing this intriguing message, the Discord server continues to be a hub for collaboration and exploration.

The project demonstrates the power of collective intelligence and the exciting possibilities that arise when art, science, and technology intersect.