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Kentucky town beams messages into space in interstellar tourism effort

Tourism officials in Lexington worked with scientists and scholars to send messages light years into space to raise awareness for their town.
Kentucky town beams messages into space in interstellar tourism effort
Posted at 6:57 PM, Jan 17, 2024

A Kentucky organization launched a tourism campaign earlier this month, and they are aiming beyond this universe to attract visitors to the bluegrass.

"We think Lexington is the best place on earth, so why not invite our extraterrestrial friends to come visit and see the best of what Earth has to offer?" said Leslie Miller, vice president of marketing at Lexington's tourism organization. 

Miller says they collaborated with scientists and scholars to develop this interstellar tourism campaign.

"We have such an impressive group of local experts that we were able to assemble and pull together, from experts in the science field, but also in linguistics and science fiction, and digital media, and engineering," said Miller.

Using an infrared laser, they beamed a message from the Kentucky Horse Park toward the TRAPPIST-1 solar system, home to the largest number of potentially habitable, Earth-sized planets currently known.

Linguistics expert Brenna Byrd says they had to factor in all sorts of variables regarding what aliens could understand.

"So we sent a bunch of different messages, based on who might be able to interpret them," said Byrd.

They sent images, audio files, mathematical equations, and molecular communications.

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"In trying to figure out what kind of messages to send, we had a really nice talk about all of our favorite things in Lexington," Byrd said.

The messages had to travel 236 trillion miles, or 40 light years away. That's 40 years before this tourism campaign will reach any intended targets.

But, the message can resonate here on Earth right away.

"We want to raise awareness of Lexington," said Miller. "We want to get the message of Lexington out there and the wonderful things that we have to offer."

So, more than an attempt to communicate with aliens, it's a celebration of Lexington and sharing that with all who can visit ...  at least in the next 40 years.

This story was originally published by Angie Beavin at Scripps News Lexington

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