|Radio Signals from Beyond Solar System|
NASA has confirmed that on March 2, the radio telescope at Arecibo, Puerto Rico, received a distinct radio tone from more than 7.4 billion miles in space and clearly created by intelligent beings.
Fact is, NASA not only confirmed the radio signal they sent it. The tone from far beyond our own solar system came from NASA's old but reliable Pioneer 10 planetary space probe.
NASA launched Pioneer 10 in 1972 on what began as a five-year mission to photograph and study Jupiter and its moons. After taking its historic photographs, ground controllers ordered Pioneer 10 to use the gravity of Jupiter to accelerate and just fly on and on, and on, through our solar system and into space history. Today, 30 years into its five-year mission, Pioneer 10 travels on, speeding away from the sun, at 27,380 mph.
While NASA stopped tracking Pioneer 10 in 1977, it continued to send its regular telemetry signals until 2000, when one of its radio components finally failed. Fortunately, NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN) team can still coerce Pioneer 10's radio to transmit by sending it a "reference signal." Basically, if NASA calls, Pioneer will answer.
On March 2, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the overachieving space probe's launch, NASA signaled Pioneer 10 and astronomers at Arecibo started waiting for a reply. After 22 hours, the time required for radio signals to make a 14.8 billion mile round trip, Pioneer's response came in loud and clear.
NASA now hopes to continue communications with Pioneer 10 as it travels through interstellar space.
On its current course, Pioneer 10 will come close to the star Aldebaran, located about 68 light years from Earth in the eye of the constellation Taurus (The Bull).
How vast is space? How far away is 68 light years? Even though it is already 7.4 billion miles from Earth and traveling toward the star at almost 30,000 mph, Pioneer 10 will not reach Aldebaran for another 2 million years.
The only other man-made object now farther from Earth than Pioneer 10 is Voyager 1, launched in 1977 and now about 7.8 billion miles from Earth. Voyager is moving in the opposite direction relative to the sun at about 38,500 mph.
Should other intelligent beings encounter Pioneer 10 along it journey, the spacecraft carries a gold-anodized aluminum plaque designed by NASA to communicate information about the planet it came from and the beings who inhabit it. [Drawing - Explanation]
For purposes of distance comparisons, the Sun is about 93 million miles from Earth, Pioneer 10, about 7.4 billion miles.
Pioneer 10 was launched on March 2, 1972 and photographed Jupiter from a distance of about 81,000 miles.