Twice As Interesting: Golden Record


What is a Golden Record?

As one may interpret from the title, the golden record is a phonograph record just like the ones used to play music. But this golden record isn’t exactly like most records. This record, built by NASA, contains various information about Earth and humans. The Voyager golden record is intended to be used if extraterrestrial beings come in contact with any of the Voyager probes.

What does the Golden Record look like?

On the cover of the record, there’s a diagram showing the location of our sun in comparison to other stars, with different tick marks representing different distances. It also shows instructions on how to play the record and to see if it’s being played correctly. The last thing on the cover is a small diagram, depicting two hydrogen atoms. The visualization of the atoms also depicts the opposite spins of the subatomic particles, an example of our knowledge in science.

History of outer space communication

Over the course of the twentieth century, we have broadcasted multiple messages and radio signals into space. But the very first, and one of the most powerful signals, was transmissioned back in 1974. The signal emitted from Puerto Rico was equivalent to a 20 million watt broadcast and has been named the Arecibo Message. The message consisted of a 1679 bit pixelated image, with a few images like the solar system, a human, the structure of DNA, and some biochemicals of Earth’s life, which are encoded in binary. This message is set to reach the star Messier 13 by the year 26974.

Outer space communication in the near future

We most likely won’t be alive to hear that the Arecibo Message has reached Messier 13, but many other messages have been broadcasted into space, such as “A Message from Earth” and “A Hello From Earth,” which are planned to reach the star Gliese 581 by 2029 and 2030, two years we’re all more likely to live to. The organization SETI, which stands for Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, has been broadcasting these messages and more that can be easily found on the Internet.

Human culture in space

Another signal we’ve sent into space was a copy of the 2008 remake of “The Day the Earth Stood Still” towards Alpha Centauri, a star that’s about 4.367 light years away. It sounds great that  we may be introducing aliens to human entertainment, but only until you realize that “The Day the Earth Stood Still” is about an alien that comes to Earth to reclaim it and us trying to destroy it.

Contents of the Golden Record

The Voyager probes are the most notable probes we’ve sent into space. Both probes, creatively named Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, were packed with the golden record containing the photos, music, and greetings in various languages that NASA decided were best to put on there. By the way, you won’t find The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Charlie Parker, or Tony Bennett on this record. What is included on the golden record is Louis Armstrong, with his song “Melancholy Blues from 1927.” Another interesting thing that was put on the Voyager 1 probe was a letter from former president Jimmy Carter. The letter talked about the date when the probes were built and by whom. An excerpt from the letter reads, “This is a present from a distant world, a token of our sounds, our science, our images, our music, our thoughts and our feelings. We are attempting to survive our time so we may live into yours.”

Future of extraterrestrial communication

Whether we live long enough to see aliens or hear of alien contact, communication is still debatable. You can say that we have been born into a time where extraterrestrial communication will be within one human life time, or you can say that with the immense size of space, it will take centuries, or millenia in order for any of the messages we’ve sent to be received. But one thing is certain. As time will go on, our technology and understanding of space will allow us to have better chances in contacting extraterrestrial life. We may have trouble with how we will negotiate with said aliens, but at some point, if humans are still alive and we come in contact, we may establish or join an intergalactic neighborhood. And these messages, including the Voyager golden record, may be the signals that will cause us to receive a message from another galaxy.


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