An Intergalactic Busy Signal
What is your message for Veger?
Driving the twisting back roads of Puerto Rico towards the famous Observatorio de Arecibo radio antenna, the world’s largest radio/radar transceiver antenna, I couldn’t help but to have flashbacks to the movie Contact. Specifically the scenes where it was shrouded in tropical rains, a hidden techno-wonder, that suggested man’s mastery of radio waves, of physics itself.
Arriving at the visitors’ center, I was greatly disappointed to realize that Warner Brother’s post-film largess was spent on a museum that not only didn’t mention much of Arecibo’s successes or technology, it didn’t even have convenient access to view the actual antenna.
To see the antenna at work, to fully realize its size, and to be in awe of its workings, you’ll have to ask a visitor’s center docent for directions. She’ll then point you down a bland hallway, where at the end will be a door looking suspiciously like an alarmed fire escape exit.
Pushing through the door, you’ll come out onto a viewing platform where Arecibo’s technological and engineering might will strike you silent in awe.
There, suspended over a perfectly spherical aluminum mesh dish will be several tons of working radio and radar antennae. Technology that allows scientists to discover Nobel Prize winning celestial details.
And what might you hear, standing on that platform? What might we be sending into the cosmos at almost the speed of light?
Yep, an intergalactic busy signal. An audible tone that made me wonder when the helpful voice would come on and say “The number you have dialed for Andromeda is currently unavailable. If you’d like to make another call to extraterrestrials, please hang up and try again. Thank you for using Crab Nebula Telecom.”