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There is finally a “alien” signal from Mars that has been decoded after a year

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A little more than a year ago, the stars sent a message to everyone on Earth with a challenge: decode it. Daniela de Paulis, who is an Artist in Residence at the SETI Institute, made the message. The goal was to fake an alien signal, and even though it was made on Earth, it really did come from another world.

The project, called A Sign in Space, was sent from the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) of the European Space Agency on May 24 at 7 p.m. UTC. The Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope at the Green Bank Observatory, the Medicina Radio Astronomical Station, and the Allen Telescope Array of the SETI Institute all picked it up 16 minutes later. Over 4,000 people from all over the world joined the search to figure out what the message meant.

On June 7, the right answer was finally given to De Paulis by a father and daughter named John and Sarah (made-up names). They looked at the encrypted message because they thought it might be related to the cellular automaton, which is a well-known way to model computation. A well-known example of this model is Conway’s Game of Life.

Pixels can be “alive” or “dead” in this model, and they change based on certain rules. The model can create complicated situations that develop from simple rules. It was used to find something meaningful in a message that seemed to be made up of only ones and zeros (alive or dead pixels).

They used the Unity game engine to change the message 6,625 times so that it could be understood.

It was a picture of five amino acids, as it turned out.

Blocks with various numbers of pixels display these crucial molecules for life. Eight is for oxygen, one is for hydrogen, six is for carbon, seven is for nitrogen, and so on.

This is not the end of the science-art experiment. De Paulis planned the challenge as a way to show what people will have to go through if they receive a signal from aliens. People will understand what communication is in the first place, which is what John and Sarah did. The next step is to figure out what the signal means. Just why are these five amino acids important?

De Paulis is extending an invitation to additional individuals to join the Discord server, which serves as a central platform for deciphering and discussing the signal. Since the previous year, there have been more than 54,000 messages pertaining to the project. The project team anticipates the participation of additional individuals to join the existing thousands in engaging in discussions, expressing opinions, and suggesting potential interpretations of the extraterrestrial signal.

As Editor here at GeekReply, I'm a big fan of all things Geeky. Most of my contributions to the site are technology related, but I'm also a big fan of video games. My genres of choice include RPGs, MMOs, Grand Strategy, and Simulation. If I'm not chasing after the latest gear on my MMO of choice, I'm here at GeekReply reporting on the latest in Geek culture.

Space Exploration

Someone in high school builds a model rocket that can land vertically, like a Falcon 9 Booster

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After three years of hard work, a high school student has finished a big project: making a model rocket that lands vertically.

It’s really rocket science to say that landing a rocket vertically is not easy. And SpaceX will tell you that they have blown up many a rocket stage while trying to land rocket boosters. But sometimes they do land before they blow up.

A student named Aryan Kapoor started building his own vertical lander in August 2021. At the end of May 2024, he finally hit the ground.

In a video for his YouTube channel JRD Propulsion, Kapoor said, “This rocket works differently than other model rockets of its kind.” “My rockets don’t have fins to keep them stable; instead, they use thrust vector control.” Thrust vector control lets the rocket’s engine move like a gimbal, giving the pilot control over the rocket’s path in space.

Even more impressive is the fact that software controls the rocket’s flight on its own.

“To guide the rocket, a flight computer makes all inflight decisions, such as steering the rocket and deciding when to ignite the landing motor.”

The onboard barometer gave the wrong reading of the rocket’s altitude during its first test flight in 2023. Kapoor wrote on his JRD Propulsion website, “The rocket did well in all other ways and collected useful data.” “Future flights will use only the accelerometer to measure altitude, providing much higher accuracy and precision.”

On his fifth attempt, Kapoor has landed successfully once more.

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Space Exploration

The Moon’s first cave has been found – Is it ready to be lived in?

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Atunnel has been found for the first time under the moon’s surface, right where people first set foot on the Sea of Tranquility. Although this isn’t the most likely place to build a colony, there are probably more caves in the area, which makes it more likely that people will move there in the future.

Even though the cost of launch is going down, it will still be very expensive to send heavy things to the moon for a while. Being able to get as much as possible on site is important for even a short-term base, let alone something permanent. A lot of attention has been paid to finding water sources lately, but shelter is also very important.

If future astronauts want to stay on the Moon for a long time, they will need to be well protected from space radiation and the huge changes in temperature that happen there. Also, we want something that is strong enough to survive a small asteroid strike, which happens a lot when there is no atmosphere to protect it. It would be much better if this was found naturally instead of having to build or dig our own.

In a statement, Professor Lorenzo Bruzzone stated that the Miniature Radio-Frequency (Mini-RF) instrument discovered a pit in Mare Tranquilitatis in 2010 as part of the ongoing Luna Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) NASA mission. After a while, we looked at these data once more using sophisticated signal processing techniques and discovered radar reflections from the pit area that are only consistent with an underground cave conduit. This finding is the first direct proof of a lava tube that can be reached below the moon’s surface.

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There have been more than 200 observations of pits like the one Bruzzone and his colleagues looked at. It is called the Mare Tranquillitatis pit. Some or all of these look like they were made when the ceiling of a lava tube caved in. But the fact that there is a pit like this doesn’t mean there is a cave below that is big enough to be useful.

That’s why the Mare Tranquillitatis pit looked like a good place to begin. It’s about 100 meters (328 feet) across, and the walls are so steep that they might hang over. For that reason, it’s one of the few big enough for the LRO’s radar to be able to pick up on internal features.

Orbital synthetic aperture radar images taken from the side by the LRO show a bright spot on the west side of the pit. Based on simulations, it looks like a pipe that is 30 to 80 meters (98 to 262 feet) long and 45 to 148 meters wide. It might not be big enough for a city, but it would be a good place for a lunar village. It is thought that the cave’s floor is flat enough to be useful. There are more than 100 meters (328 feet) between the cave entrance and the surface, but since the moon has low gravity, that might not be a big problem.

The authors made two models of the pit and cave that were based on different assumptions about their sizes. The main difference was the height of the rock pile that formed when the pit’s ceiling collapsed, which affected how steep the floor was.

gif of entering a lava tube on the Moon

The Sea of Tranquility is like New York: it’s a great place to visit, but we wouldn’t want to live there. That’s because it doesn’t have ice, which is another important thing about living on the moon. There is probably frozen water at the poles of the moon, especially at the south pole, which is what started the race to land there.

Mare Tranquilitatis is a flat equatorial plane. Any ice that was close to the surface of this plane would have melted in the hot lunar days. Being about 7 degrees north of where Armstrong took “one small step” won’t make up for not having anything to drink.

However, the work makes it more likely that these kinds of lava tubes could exist at the poles. What’s more, it may be more important that we can find them in space with a little better detail. “People have thought about these caves for more than 50 years, but this is the first time we have proven they exist,” Bruzzone said.

The study was written up in Nature Astronomy.

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Space Exploration

Uranus’s radiation belt isn’t weak; it’s just crooked

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Voyager 2 visited Uranus almost forty years ago, leaving behind some very interesting mysteries. Three planetary scientists believe they have shown that two of these problems—why its proton radiation belts are so weak and why its magnetic field isn’t centered—are linked, which could help solve one.

Magnetic fields have an impact on charged particles. For example, high-energy particles from space circle the Earth when the field is strong. The Van Allen Belts are made when particles from the solar wind interact with Earth’s magnetic field. People who don’t believe in the moon landing say that living things can’t cross these belts, which protect the atmosphere.

The belts around other planets with magnetic fields look like Uranus and Neptune’s, but their magnetic fields are different. It is tilted almost 60 degrees away from Uranus’s axis of rotation. The ones on Earth, Jupiter, and Saturn, on the other hand, are much more aligned. Also, its center is not in the middle of the Earth; it’s about a third of the way to the south pole. Voyager 2 said that the radiation belt is not very strong, but the magnetic field is. Matthew Acevski, a PhD student at Imperial College London, and his coworkers say that’s partly because the field isn’t focused.

Acevski and his co-authors used the Boris algorithm, a way to figure out how charged particles move, to test how the asymmetrical magnetic field should change the behavior of protons that get caught in it. They learned that the uneven field makes the particles move at various speeds while they circle. Where protons move slowly, they gather together, and where they move quickly, they spread out.

“This is like how traffic jams happen on a ring road.” “When cars go slower, there is more traffic, and when they go faster, there is less traffic,” Acevski told Space.com.

Because Voyager 2 didn’t go around Uranus but just looked at it as it went by, the authors thought that it might not be that the radiation belt is weak, but that our only visitor just happened to measure an area that wasn’t full.

The team did math to figure out where the protons would move faster and slower and came to the conclusion that Voyager 2 went through an area of depletion.

It’s important to note that the effect only works on protons. The asymmetry doesn’t change the paths of electrons very much because their masses are so much lower, which fits with Voyager 2’s report of a strong electron radiation belt.

The authors concur that their work does not adequately explain measurements as low as those from Voyager 2. They write, “It’s possible that this effect will become a bigger part of this deficiency if more complex system dynamics are added.”

If the planned Uranus orbiter is built, the part of the weakness that can’t be explained might be one of the easier mysteries to solve. But it’s not clear if this will happen while the Mars Sample Return takes up most of NASA’s exploration budget.

Neptune’s magnetic field is almost as crooked as Uranus’s, but Voyager found that its proton radiation belt was strong. It’s still not clear if this difference is real or just a result of the places Voyager 2 went.

The study is in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, which is open access.

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