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Global Effort to Decipher ‘A Sign in Space Continues’

Global Effort to Decipher ‘A Sign in Space Continues’

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On May 24, 2023, SETI Institute Artist-in-Residence Daniela De Paulis launched her revolutionary piece of global theater, A Sign in Space. De Paulis collaborated with an international and interdisciplinary team of scientists, engineers, artists, outreach professionals and more to explore the process of decoding and interpreting an extraterrestrial message. This process required global cooperation, bridging a conversation around SETI, space research and society across multiple cultures and areas of expertise.

On May 24, the European Space Agency's ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) orbiting Mars transmitted an encoded message to Earth, simulating the reception of a signal from extraterrestrial intelligence. Three world-class radio astronomy observatories detected the signal: the SETI Institute's Allen Telescope Array (ATA), the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT) at the Green Bank Observatory (GBO), and the Medicina Radio Astronomical Station observatory managed by the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF).

The contents of this encoded message, crafted by De Paulis and her team, remain undisclosed, allowing the public to participate in its decoding and interpretation. To encourage the process, De Paulis has led online discussions around art, religion, ethics and more, highlighting a diversity of perspectives and exploring non-Western perspectives. Those workshops are available on YouTube here:

Once the signal was “detected” and processed by the three observatories, the team made it available for download by the general public. More than one million people downloaded the data, and it only took a week for people in the software-defined radio community to decode it. Since then, an international Discord community of nearly five thousand people has been working to decipher and interpret the message, with different voices, perspectives and approaches emerging and collaborating.

The project has received widespread attention and support. Press coverage reached more than 150M people; the video of the live-streamed event on the day of the message transmission was watched 100,000 times, and people from more than 168 countries have visited the A Sign in Space website ( People participating in the deciphering and interpretation process have suggested many creative and diverse ideas, but a dominant interpretation has yet to emerge.

Moving forward, the team is considering several ideas to foster ongoing engagement, including the possibility of a mini online conference where people can share their theories and ideas, a hackathon and other activities.

To learn more, visit the A Sign in Space website ( or Discord (

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