Sónar Calling GJ273b

Sónar celebrates its 25th anniversary by sending a message in search of extraterrestrial intelligence. 33 musicians send music to GJ273b, a potentially habitable exoplanet, 12.4 light years from Earth. A celebration, an artistic and scientific experiment and a collective rumination on what it means to be human, and alien.

Can we expect an answer from GJ273b?

Sónar celebrates its 25th anniversary by sending a message in search of extraterrestrial intelligence. 33 musicians send music to GJ273b, a potentially habitable exoplanet, 12.4 light years from Earth. A celebration, an artistic and scientific experiment and a collective rumination on what it means to be human, and alien.

Can we expect an answer from GJ273b?

Dr. Ignasi Ribas, IEEC
Scientific Director of Sónar Calling GJ273b

Dr. Ignasi Ribas, IEEC
Scientific Director of Sónar Calling GJ273b

Timeline

Distance travelled:
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Time elapsed:
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Earth

Distance travelled:
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From the high latitude of Tromsø, a high-power radio transmission departs the Earth towards the sky. Our planet, the third one in the Solar System is a rocky object surrounded by a rather thick atmosphere. While there is nothing particular about its size or orbit, there is one thing that makes it unique: it is the only place in the Universe known to host life… perhaps even intelligent life… for now.

From the high latitude of Tromsø, a high-power radio transmission departs the Earth towards the sky. Our planet, the third one in the Solar System is a rocky object surrounded by a rather thick atmosphere. While there is nothing particular about its size or orbit, there is one thing that makes it unique: it is the only place in the Universe known to host life… perhaps even intelligent life… for now.

Distance travelled:
3.8·105 km (380000 km)

Time elapsed:
1.3 sec

Moon

Distance travelled:
3.8·105 km (380000 km)

Time elapsed:
1.3 sec

The message reaches the orbit of the Moon, Earth's natural satellite. The Moon was formed billions of years ago when a planetary embryo collided with a young Earth, ripping out part of its mantle. So, our planet and its satellite are true siblings. Seen from the Earth, the Moon always shows the same face and its phases arise from the differences in solar illumination as it orbits our planet every 27 days.

The message reaches the orbit of the Moon, Earth's natural satellite. The Moon was formed billions of years ago when a planetary embryo collided with a young Earth, ripping out part of its mantle. So, our planet and its satellite are true siblings. Seen from the Earth, the Moon always shows the same face and its phases arise from the differences in solar illumination as it orbits our planet every 27 days.

Distance travelled:
1.7·108 km (170 million km)

Time elapsed:
9.6 min

Mars

Distance travelled:
1.7·108 km (170 million km)

Time elapsed:
9.6 min

The message reaches the orbit of the red planet. Mars is the most Earth-like of all the Solar System planets. Since the XIXth century it has been considered a suitable location for life (even intelligent life!) to exist. Although its mass is 10 times less than the Earth, in the past it could have hosted an atmosphere and also had liquid water running on its surface. Both are long gone and all that remains is a rusty dry surface. But perhaps life did exist on Mars billions of years ago, hence the launch of several space missions to search for its footprints.

The message reaches the orbit of the red planet. Mars is the most Earth-like of all the Solar System planets. Since the XIXth century it has been considered a suitable location for life (even intelligent life!) to exist. Although its mass is 10 times less than the Earth, in the past it could have hosted an atmosphere and also had liquid water running on its surface. Both are long gone and all that remains is a rusty dry surface. But perhaps life did exist on Mars billions of years ago, hence the launch of several space missions to search for its footprints.

Distance travelled:
2.6·108 km (260 million km)

Time elapsed:
14.5 min

Belt

Distance travelled:
2.6·108 km (260 million km)

Time elapsed:
14.5 min

The message reaches the inner limit of the asteroid belt. When the Solar System was forming, all the material between Mars and Jupiter should have coalesced to create a planet. However, the strong gravitational pull of Jupiter prevented this and millions of different sized rocks were left to form a belt. The largest rock in the asteroid belt is Ceres, a dwarf planet with a diameter of almost 1,000 km.

The message reaches the inner limit of the asteroid belt. When the Solar System was forming, all the material between Mars and Jupiter should have coalesced to create a planet. However, the strong gravitational pull of Jupiter prevented this and millions of different sized rocks were left to form a belt. The largest rock in the asteroid belt is Ceres, a dwarf planet with a diameter of almost 1,000 km.

Distance travelled:
2.75·108 km (275 million km)

Time elapsed:
15.3 min

Inner belt

Distance travelled:
2.75·108 km (275 million km)

Time elapsed:
15.3 min

The message has crossed the full width of the asteroid belt. The asteroids are grouped in families dependent on their orbital properties. Due to its strong gravity, spaces that are integer ratios of Jupiter's orbital period are empty of asteroids. These are the so-called Kirkwood gaps.

The message has crossed the full width of the asteroid belt. The asteroids are grouped in families dependent on their orbital properties. Due to its strong gravity, spaces that are integer ratios of Jupiter's orbital period are empty of asteroids. These are the so-called Kirkwood gaps.

Distance travelled:
7.65·108 km (765 million km)

Time elapsed:
42.5 min

Jupiter

Distance travelled:
7.65·108 km (765 million km)

Time elapsed:
42.5 min

The message is now at the orbital distance of Jupiter. With a mass 313 times greater than the earth and a diameter 11 times the size, Jupiter is the Solar System’s giant. It has a rocky core encased in gas, meaning it has no discerning surface or atmosphere such as our own planet. Its gaseous envelope is filled with clouds and strong winds of over 600 km/h. The Great Red Spot, a giant hurricane-like storm three times the size of our planet, has existed in the same location for centuries.

The message is now at the orbital distance of Jupiter. With a mass 313 times greater than the earth and a diameter 11 times the size, Jupiter is the Solar System’s giant. It has a rocky core encased in gas, meaning it has no discerning surface or atmosphere such as our own planet. Its gaseous envelope is filled with clouds and strong winds of over 600 km/h. The Great Red Spot, a giant hurricane-like storm three times the size of our planet, has existed in the same location for centuries.

Distance travelled:
1.4·109 km (1.4 billion km)

Time elapsed:
1h 19m

Saturn

Distance travelled:
1.4·109 km (1.4 billion km)

Time elapsed:
1h 19m

The message reaches the orbit of the majestic 'lord of the rings'. Saturn is a gaseous planet with a mass almost 100 times that of the Earth and is encircled by a magnificent system of rings. The rings are formed by billions of particles of ice and rock, ranging in size from a grain of sugar to the size of a house. The rings are believed to be debris left over from comets, asteroids and shattered moons. Although they extend thousands of kilometres from the planet, the main rings are typically only about 10 meters thick.

The message reaches the orbit of the majestic 'lord of the rings'. Saturn is a gaseous planet with a mass almost 100 times that of the Earth and is encircled by a magnificent system of rings. The rings are formed by billions of particles of ice and rock, ranging in size from a grain of sugar to the size of a house. The rings are believed to be debris left over from comets, asteroids and shattered moons. Although they extend thousands of kilometres from the planet, the main rings are typically only about 10 meters thick.

Distance travelled:
2.9·109 km (2.9 billion km)

Time elapsed:
2h 40m

Uranus

Distance travelled:
2.9·109 km (2.9 billion km)

Time elapsed:
2h 40m

The 'head' of the message is now at Uranus distance and its 'tail' has just left the orbit of Mars) The message is at the orbital distance of Uranus. Uranus has a mass 14 times greater than the Earth and a radius 4 times larger. It is known as an 'ice giant' since 80 percent or more of its mass is made up of a fluid mixture of water, methane, and ammonia ices. The rotation axis of Uranus is tilted so heavily that it essentially orbits the sun on its side. This unusual orientation may be due to a collision with a planet-sized body soon after it was formed.

The 'head' of the message is now at Uranus distance and its 'tail' has just left the orbit of Mars) The message is at the orbital distance of Uranus. Uranus has a mass 14 times greater than the Earth and a radius 4 times larger. It is known as an 'ice giant' since 80 percent or more of its mass is made up of a fluid mixture of water, methane, and ammonia ices. The rotation axis of Uranus is tilted so heavily that it essentially orbits the sun on its side. This unusual orientation may be due to a collision with a planet-sized body soon after it was formed.

Distance travelled:
4.5·109 km (4.5 billion km)

Time elapsed:
4h 10m

Neptune

Distance travelled:
4.5·109 km (4.5 billion km)

Time elapsed:
4h 10m

The message reaches Neptune. This was the first planet to have its existence predicted by mathematical calculations before it was even seen through a telescope, in 1846. It is another 'ice giant' with a mass 17 times greater than that of the Earth and a radius slightly less than 4 times the size. Neptune's winds can reach up to 2,400 km/h, the fastest detected in the Solar System to date.

The message reaches Neptune. This was the first planet to have its existence predicted by mathematical calculations before it was even seen through a telescope, in 1846. It is another 'ice giant' with a mass 17 times greater than that of the Earth and a radius slightly less than 4 times the size. Neptune's winds can reach up to 2,400 km/h, the fastest detected in the Solar System to date.

Distance travelled:
5.5·109 km (5.5 billion km)

Time elapsed:
5h 3m

Pluto

Distance travelled:
5.5·109 km (5.5 billion km)

Time elapsed:
5h 3m

The message reaches Pluto. Pluto is a dwarf planet (classified as such in 2006) with a diameter of 2,370 km, less than one-fifth the diameter of the Earth, and only two-thirds of the Earth's moon. It is also one of the largest known members of the Kuiper Belt; a shadowy zone beyond the orbit of Neptune thought to be populated by hundreds of thousands of rocky and icy bodies. Pluto's surface is one of the coldest places in the Solar System, at roughly -225ºC.

The message reaches Pluto. Pluto is a dwarf planet (classified as such in 2006) with a diameter of 2,370 km, less than one-fifth the diameter of the Earth, and only two-thirds of the Earth's moon. It is also one of the largest known members of the Kuiper Belt; a shadowy zone beyond the orbit of Neptune thought to be populated by hundreds of thousands of rocky and icy bodies. Pluto's surface is one of the coldest places in the Solar System, at roughly -225ºC.

Distance travelled:
2.1·1010 km (21 billion km)

Time elapsed:
19h 24m

Voyager

Distance travelled:
2.1·1010 km (21 billion km)

Time elapsed:
19h 24m

The message just reached the distance travelled by the man-made spacecraft farthest from Earth: Voyager 1. Launched in 1977 Voyager 1 set out to study the outer Solar System, including flybys of Jupiter, Saturn and Saturn's large moon, Titan. Following its science mission Voyager 1 continued its journey and in 2012 it became the first spacecraft to leave the region under the Sun’s influence, entering interstellar space.

The message just reached the distance travelled by the man-made spacecraft farthest from Earth: Voyager 1. Launched in 1977 Voyager 1 set out to study the outer Solar System, including flybys of Jupiter, Saturn and Saturn's large moon, Titan. Following its science mission Voyager 1 continued its journey and in 2012 it became the first spacecraft to leave the region under the Sun’s influence, entering interstellar space.

Distance travelled:
1.8·1011 km (180 billion km)

Time elapsed:
7 d

Planet 9

Distance travelled:
1.8·1011 km (180 billion km)

Time elapsed:
7 d

The message reaches a possible Planet 9. Astronomers have been speculating for decades on the possible existence of a ninth planet in the Solar System, also known as Planet 9. Calculations released in 2016 suggested the existence of a planet over 10 times the mass of the Earth in a very eccentric orbital period of around 15,000 years. Planet 9 has not been seen yet. It could now be lurking in the depths of the Kuiper Belt in its aphelion, at a distance 1,200 times greater than that of the Sun to the Earth.

The message reaches a possible Planet 9. Astronomers have been speculating for decades on the possible existence of a ninth planet in the Solar System, also known as Planet 9. Calculations released in 2016 suggested the existence of a planet over 10 times the mass of the Earth in a very eccentric orbital period of around 15,000 years. Planet 9 has not been seen yet. It could now be lurking in the depths of the Kuiper Belt in its aphelion, at a distance 1,200 times greater than that of the Sun to the Earth.

Distance travelled:
4.7·1011 km (470 billion km)

Time elapsed:
18 d

Oort

Distance travelled:
4.7·1011 km (470 billion km)

Time elapsed:
18 d

The message is reaching the inner limit of the Oort cloud. The Oort cloud is an extended shell of icy objects that exist in the outermost reaches of the Solar System. This particle cloud is theorized to be the remains of the disc of material that formed the Sun and its planets. It is spherically shaped and consists of an outer cloud and a torus (doughnut-shaped) inner cloud. The minor planet Sedna, discovered in 2003, is thought to be a member of the inner Oort Cloud.

The message is reaching the inner limit of the Oort cloud. The Oort cloud is an extended shell of icy objects that exist in the outermost reaches of the Solar System. This particle cloud is theorized to be the remains of the disc of material that formed the Sun and its planets. It is spherically shaped and consists of an outer cloud and a torus (doughnut-shaped) inner cloud. The minor planet Sedna, discovered in 2003, is thought to be a member of the inner Oort Cloud.

Distance travelled:
1.4·1013 km (14 trillion km)

Time elapsed:
1.5 yr

Oort Out

Distance travelled:
1.4·1013 km (14 trillion km)

Time elapsed:
1.5 yr

The message is exiting the Oort cloud. The Oort cloud is a reserve of cometary nuclei that contains ice dating back to the origin of the Solar System. The number of objects in the cloud could be as high as 2 trillion. Long-period comets (those with orbital periods longer than 200 years) have their origins in the Oort cloud. At its current speed, Voyager 1 will reach the Oort cloud in about 300 years, and will take approximately 30,000 years to travel through it.

The message is exiting the Oort cloud. The Oort cloud is a reserve of cometary nuclei that contains ice dating back to the origin of the Solar System. The number of objects in the cloud could be as high as 2 trillion. Long-period comets (those with orbital periods longer than 200 years) have their origins in the Oort cloud. At its current speed, Voyager 1 will reach the Oort cloud in about 300 years, and will take approximately 30,000 years to travel through it.

Distance travelled:
4.0·1013 km (40 trillion km)

Time elapsed:
4 yr 89d

Proxima Centauri

Distance travelled:
4.0·1013 km (40 trillion km)

Time elapsed:
4 yr 89d

The message has reached the distance of the closest star to the Sun: Proxima Centauri. Proxima Cen is a red dwarf with a mass 8 times less than the Sun and belongs to a system of Sun-like stars, alpha Cen A and alpha Cen B. In 2016 it was announced that Proxima Centauri hosts a planet of similar mass to the Earth which is orbiting in its habitable zone, with an orbital period of 11.2 days. Such a planet could have liquid water on its surface and therefore be hospitable to life.

The message has reached the distance of the closest star to the Sun: Proxima Centauri. Proxima Cen is a red dwarf with a mass 8 times less than the Sun and belongs to a system of Sun-like stars, alpha Cen A and alpha Cen B. In 2016 it was announced that Proxima Centauri hosts a planet of similar mass to the Earth which is orbiting in its habitable zone, with an orbital period of 11.2 days. Such a planet could have liquid water on its surface and therefore be hospitable to life.

Distance travelled:
5.6·1013 km (56 trillion km)

Time elapsed:
5 yr 345 d

Barnard's star

Distance travelled:
5.6·1013 km (56 trillion km)

Time elapsed:
5 yr 345 d

The message is now at the distance of Barnard's star, a red dwarf with a mass 7 times less than our Sun. It is the fourth-nearest known individual star to the Sun (after the three stars in the Alpha Centauri system) and the closest star in the Northern Celestial Hemisphere. Barnard's star has the largest apparent motion of all stars, which was first recorded by American astronomer E. E. Barnard.

The message is now at the distance of Barnard's star, a red dwarf with a mass 7 times less than our Sun. It is the fourth-nearest known individual star to the Sun (after the three stars in the Alpha Centauri system) and the closest star in the Northern Celestial Hemisphere. Barnard's star has the largest apparent motion of all stars, which was first recorded by American astronomer E. E. Barnard.

Distance travelled:
8.1·1013 km (81 trillion km)

Time elapsed:
8 yr 218 d

Sirius

Distance travelled:
8.1·1013 km (81 trillion km)

Time elapsed:
8 yr 218 d

The message has been approaching Sirius and has now reached its closest distance at less than 4 light years. Sirius, also known as the 'alpha' star is in the constellation of Canis Majoris, is the brightest star visible from the Earth and from the message it is now five times more luminescent. Sirius is actually a binary star system, consisting of a white star with twice the mass of the Sun and a faint white dwarf companion.

The message has been approaching Sirius and has now reached its closest distance at less than 4 light years. Sirius, also known as the 'alpha' star is in the constellation of Canis Majoris, is the brightest star visible from the Earth and from the message it is now five times more luminescent. Sirius is actually a binary star system, consisting of a white star with twice the mass of the Sun and a faint white dwarf companion.

Distance travelled:
1.1·1014 km (110 trillion km)

Time elapsed:
11 yr 167 d

Procyon

Distance travelled:
1.1·1014 km (110 trillion km)

Time elapsed:
11 yr 167 d

The message has been travelling in the direction of the Procyon star in alpha Canis Minoris, and is now 0.65 light years away. It is the eighth-brightest star in the night sky but, from this distance, Procyon is an extremely bright star, some 60 times brighter than Sirius as seen from the Earth. It is a binary star system, consisting of a white star approximately 50% more massive than the Sun with a faint white dwarf companion.

The message has been travelling in the direction of the Procyon star in alpha Canis Minoris, and is now 0.65 light years away. It is the eighth-brightest star in the night sky but, from this distance, Procyon is an extremely bright star, some 60 times brighter than Sirius as seen from the Earth. It is a binary star system, consisting of a white star approximately 50% more massive than the Sun with a faint white dwarf companion.

Distance travelled:
1.2·1014 km (120 trillion km)

Time elapsed:
12 yr 145 d

Luyten

Distance travelled:
1.2·1014 km (120 trillion km)

Time elapsed:
12 yr 145 d

The message has reached its destination! Luyten's star is a red dwarf with a mass one-fourth of the Sun, hosting at least two orbiting planets. One of them, Luyten's star b, has a mass 3 times greater than the Earth and orbits within the habitable zone. Could it have liquid water? Could it have developed life? Could such life be intelligent and be capable of communication? Would they have sufficient technology to receive our message and decode it? We may receive the answer in 25 years.

The message has reached its destination! Luyten's star is a red dwarf with a mass one-fourth of the Sun, hosting at least two orbiting planets. One of them, Luyten's star b, has a mass 3 times greater than the Earth and orbits within the habitable zone. Could it have liquid water? Could it have developed life? Could such life be intelligent and be capable of communication? Would they have sufficient technology to receive our message and decode it? We may receive the answer in 25 years.

The second transmission will take place in April 2018. Please, stay tuned on our social networks.


You too can contact intelligent extra-terrestrial life. Send us your music and we will transmit it to Luyten's Star b. You could win 4 VIP Passes to Sónar 2018.


About this project

What is Sónar and why is Sónar launching Sónar GJ273b?

Sónar, Barcelona's music, creativity and technology festival celebrates its 25th anniversary. Since its inception in 1994, Sónar has remained true to its name and has continued to track the most innovative, radical and engaging music on the planet. To celebrate its 25th year, Sónar has decided to reverse its role, switching from radar to antenna. This is how the Sonar Calling project GJ273b was born in which a quarter of a century of musical exploration will be condensed and sent it into space, specifically to the exoplanet Luyten Star b, with the objective of making first human contact with an extra-terrestrial intelligence.

Who is involved in Sónar Calling GJ273b and what are their roles?

Sónar leads this artistic-scientific experiment in collaboration with two pioneering institutions in the detection of extra-terrestrial life: the IEEC (Catalonia Institute of Space Studies) and METI International (Messaging Extra-terrestrial Intelligence). The project involves 33 artists linked to the festival, from diverse musical origins and discourses. The IEEC is a research institute that studies all areas of space science, including the planet Earth, the Solar System, exoplanets, stellar physics, astroparticle physics, and cosmology. The IEEC conducts projects on the discovery of habitable planets and has supported the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence (SETI, [email protected] and BOINC) for more than a decade and hosts the website SETI.cat. The project’s second partner is METI International, the ground breaking organization in the design of messages capable of being understood by extra-terrestrial civilizations. Founded in 2017, it carries out scientific research and educational programs on the sending of Intelligent Extra-terrestrial Messages (METI) and the Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence (SETI).

What is the background of Sónar Calling GJ273b?

Contact with an extra-terrestrial intelligence has been an object of interest and fascination for decades. In the 70's, the first SETI named projects (search for extra-terrestrial intelligence) were carried out, which included the use of the Arecibo radio telescope (Puerto Rico) both to detect possible emissions of civilizations in other star systems and for the sending of radio messages, and materials in space probes, to interplanetary space. Much energy has been focused on listening to different stars to detect signs of alien intelligence. Thus far there have been no positive results, apart from a single signal, the so-called “Wow!”, which has yet to be explained. Since 1974, transmissions have been sent to well known brightly shining stars, as well as to stars with giant exoplanets. There has been no success to date. In recent years many exoplanets have been discovered orbiting stars similar to the Sun, with some of them seeming to meet the requirements for habitable worlds. It is therefore the perfect time to make a first attempt at communication with these planet’s hypothetical civilizations.

How is this project original?

From a scientific point of view, this experiment is unique as it directs a transmission to a specific nearby exoplanet that appears to offer the necessary conditions to house life. The encoding, cadence and power used to send the message is also unique and significantly increases the chances of it being received and understood by a non-terrestrial intelligence. The design of the message by IEEC and METI is propaedeutic: each section of the message contains the necessary information to decode the next section. The message contains both basic information about humanity and several pieces of music. From a musical standpoint, this project is innovative due to the active participation of a significant number of musicians of renown who have created special musical pieces to be sent to Luyten's Star b.

Where is the message being sent?

The transmission is directed at the Luyten Star, also known as GJ 273. Luyten's Star is located in the Canis Minor constellation at a distance of 12.4 light years from Earth. It is a much cooler star than our Sun with a temperature of around 3,000ºC (compared to the Sun’s 5,500ºC) and is therefore more reddish in colour. We estimate a mass and a radius that is approximately one third of our sun’s. The star is not visible without a telescope. It was named after a Dutch-American astronomer, Willem Jacob Luyten, who measured its movement (compared to other distant stars). In 2017 he announced the discovery of two orbiting planets. One of them, with a mass almost three times greater than the Earth, is located in the innermost edge of the habitable zone of the star. Its year is equivalent to 19 days on our own planet. It is called the Luyten Star b. This planet also has a nearby smaller neighbour with a mass 30% more than that of our own planet and whose year lasts around 5 days, it is called Luyten’s Star c. We do not know if Luyten’s Star b has water, nor if retains an atmosphere that makes it habitable. But presently we also have no reason to think otherwise. If it did, it would be a world with oceans like ours, perhaps hotter, with a sky lit by a star larger in appearance than the sun, shining with a reddish glow.
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