An 'extraterrestrial' message transmitted from Mars and directed to us humans on Earth.

It is the first act of the project "A Sign in Space", conceived by the artist Daniela De Paulis, coordinator of the Space & Society area of the InCosmiCon Research Center, of the Department of Human Sciences and Innovation for the territory of Insubria, directed by Professor Paolo Musso.

The signal will be sent at 21.16 to three radio telescopes, one of which is Italian: the Inaf radio astronomy station in Medicina, near Bologna. This was announced by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the National Institute of Astrophysics (INAF): an ESA probein orbit around Mars will send a radio signal to Earth containing the simulation of a possible extraterrestrial message.

After being received by radio telescopes, the message will be shared online and on SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) social networks. Everyone, anywhere in the world, will be able to try their hand at deciphering it.


Radio telescope

The goal is therefore to involve the audience in a sort of "spatial performance", the simulation of an unprecedented scenario in which one wonders what would happen if we received a message from an extraterrestrial civilization and what it would mean for humanity.

To answer these questions Daniela de Paulis has assembled a scientific team, under the umbrella of a title in English, "A Sign in Space", which cites the story "A sign in space" of the "Cosmicomiche" by Italo Calvino, of which this year marks the centenary of his birth. "It is a preparation for a possibility, a possible scenario that can help us investigate how we could approach a message that comes from a form of life that we do not know", explains Claudia Mignone of INAF.



"Few people know it - explains Professor Paolo Musso of the Department of Human Sciences and Innovation for the territory of Insubria - but the reflection on how to communicate with other intelligent beings dates back to Kant and can teach us a lot about ourselves, even if contact should never take place". SETI has been working on it for decades, he adds, "but so far only on a theoretical level."

The project "A Sign in Space", continues Musso, has been defined by ESA as "an artistic performance, as it has a mainly demonstrative purpose: to make the general public aware that the reception of an alien message is possible and could occur at any time". However, he points out, "in many respects the message is structured as we believe it should be an authentic interstellar message." For this reason, thanks to the "truly incredible" work of Daniela De Paulis, "for the first time in history we will be able to test our ideas in a real broadcast". The hope, he concludes, is that this will "revitalize research in this field, which for various reasons has been somewhat neglected in recent years."