Greetings to the universe with the Golden Record

Greetings to the universe with the Golden Record

While the translators of the world have to think up ways of communicating concepts in Japanese, German and Swahili, scientists and thinkers once had an even more difficult task. They needed to devise a language that would enable them to communicate beings in outer space.

The Voyager 1 and 2 probes are the farthest away human made objects from earth. While the date for meeting up with our ET brothers is set in the official agenda for these craft, they nevertheless carry the Voyager Golden Records, which are the phonograph records launched with the spacecraft in 1977.

The probability of any aliens ever hearing the contents of these records is extremely remote, given that the probes are extremely small compared to the vastness of interstellar space. The record should be looked as a time capsule or a symbolic statement more than a serious attempt to communicate, but is nevertheless interesting.

The data and images were selected for NASA by Carl Sagan of Cornell University. The records contain 116 images and natural sounds, such as those made by surf, wind, thunder and animals, together with music from different cultures and eras and printed messages.

The images include many photos and diagrams in both black and white and colour. It is made of gold-plated copper with an aluminium cover. It is possible that a civilisation finding the record will be able to date it.

Hopefully, these materials will stand the test of time, because it will be forty thousand years before the craft make a close approach to any other planetary system. As Carl Sagan said, “The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced spacefaring civilisations in interstellar space. But the launching of this bottle into the cosmic ocean says something very hopeful about life on this planet”

The spoken messages included include sentences such as “Friends of space, how are you all? Have you eaten yet? Come visit us if you have time” in the minor dialect of Amoy and “Greetings to our friends in the stars. We wish that we will meet you some day” in Arabic.

A charming, romantic and scientific idea.

Juliet Allaway


Written by editor