A Sign in Space is a multidisciplinary art project conceived by artist Daniela De Paulis. De Paulis is leading a global team to send an encoded message from the European Space Agency (ESA) ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) back to Earth, simulating a signal an advanced extraterrestrial civilization could eventually send to Earth. The message will be “detected” by four radio astronomy observatories on Earth: the SETI Institute’s Allen Telescope Array (ATA), The Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT), the National Science Foundation’s Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) and the Medicina Radio Astronomical Station observatory managed by INAF (the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics). De Paulis and her team developed the encoded message, but its contents remain unknown, even to most of the collaborating partners.
The message will be transmitted from the TGO on May 24 at 19:16 UTC/12:15 pm PDT.
Following the transmission, the A Sign in Space team will host a series of Zoom-based discussions open to the public around topics that consider the societal implications of detecting a signal from an extraterrestrial civilization. The discussions will take place over 6-8 weeks after the transmission.
Please register for any of the events listed below separately. This schedule will be updated with new sessions added, so please check back.
These events will be recorded and shared wholly or in part on social media and other public platforms. Participants agree to have their videos and voice recorded and shared.
May 26, 2023, 9am pdt/12:00 pm edt/18:00 CEST
Host: Willi Lempert
This hour-long workshop will focus on non-Western perspectives that understand the celestial as neither alien nor outer. In reflecting on the A Sign in Space project, we will engage in activities that explore how intelligent extraterrestrials might imagine language and spacial mapping in radically different ways. The workshop will be grounded within anthropologically-informed aspects of Polynesian wayfinding, nomadic spacial orientation, and how language itself structures what can be communicated. Throughout, these discussions will be related to examples from science fiction stories that bring speculative possibilities of SETI to life.
Decoding and Signal Processing
Host: Wael Farah, Daniel Estévez
In this workshop ATA astronomer Wael Farah and radio engineer Daniel Estévez will give a tutorial on decoding, signal processing, and will explain the notional difference between a potential ETI signal and that received for A Sign in Space. All levels are welcome!
Join “A Sign in Space” Artistic Director in a lively and thought provoking brainstorming session about the possible meaning of the simulated extra-terrestrial message created for the project. The workshop will start by reading some excerpts from Italo Calvino’s book “Cosmicomics” and will continue with a conversation with the workshop’s participants on possible forms of communication attempted by an extraterrestrial civilization with human and non-human life forms. Be prepared to draw and write if you wish.
How to prepare for the possible discovery of Extraterrestrial Life
Host: The Rev. Pamela "Pan" Conrad
Join Episcopal priest and Mars Rover mission scientist Pamela "Pan" Conrad to discuss the potential implications of the discovery of extraterrestrial life at the intersection of spiritual and scientific approaches.
Extraterrestrial Intelligence and Islamic Thought
Hosts: Jörg Matthias Determann (Virginia Commonwealth University with Shoaib Ahmed Malik (Zayed University), Hamza Karamali (Basira Education) and Richard Playford (Leeds Trinity University)
Duration of the webinar: 60 minutes
One of the most influential heavenly messages in the history of humanity has been the Quran. The revelation received by Prophet Muhammad contains many references to intelligent beings from outside our world, including jinn, angels and God himself. This webinar discusses how extraterrestrial intelligence has been understood from an Islamic perspective.
Hosts: Scott Rettberg and Joseph Tabbi
This workshop will be hosted by Professors Scott Rettberg and Joseph Tabbi of the Center for Digital Narrative will explore the potentialities of electronic literature (e-lit) for the reception and interpretation of extraterrestrial communication. The workshop will include inputs from four leading digital authors: Natalia Fedorova, Jason Nelson, Allison Parrish, and Rob Wittig. The workshop will conclude with the launch of a new “netprov” — a collectively written fiction that all workshop attendees can contribute to both during the workshop and after. We welcome up to 40 participants in the workshop.
This is an opportunity to discuss our ideas about the future of contact with a philosophy professor and trained ethicist. We will think critically together about uncertain futures, unknown others, our sense of duty, our sense of wonder, and the effects that extraterrestrial prospects have on us and here and now.
WRETI: Writing in Response to ETI
Co-Hosts: Daniela de Paulis, Gregory Betts
Panelists: Tracie Morris, Jaap Blonk, Christian Bök, and Luigi Serafini
The implications of A Sign in Space by Daniela de Paulis, using a wealth of literary experience to engage with the cultural resonances of this artwork. The four established writers on the panel (including Tracie Morris, Jaap Blonk, Christian Bök, and Luigi Serafini) all plan to offer their productive impressions of this project. How might we write about aliens? How to respond to alien writing? What are the limits of our language in the face of radical Otherness?