Social networking has gone interstellar. Yesterday, friend-connecting network Bebo beamed a message at Gliese 581c, a terrestrial “super-Earth” that might be capable of supporting life. But is this really a viable effort to make alien contact, or merely an instance of extrasolar spam?Bebo sponsored a competition to collect 501 photos, drawings, and text messages from its users and had those message transmitted from the RT-70 radar telescope in Evpatoria, Ukraine. But, despite shelling out $40,000 for the transmission, Bebo’s primary interest is not in making first contact:
Bebo's intent was to raise awareness for the concerns that young people have for the future of Earth, and to generate interest in space exploration. Bebo spokesman Mark Charkin said, "A 'Message From Earth' presents an opportunity for the digital natives of today… to reconnect with science and the wider universe in a simple, fun and immersive way."
On the other hand, Dr. Alexander Zaitsev of the Russian Academy of Science, who acted as Bebo’s consultant on the project, believes that these proactive attempts at contact, may be the only way we’ll find other life in the universe:
In his paper "Making the Case for METI [Messaging Extra Terrestrial Intelligence]," Zaitsev and two colleagues wrote, "It is possible we live in a galaxy where everyone is listening and no one is speaking. In order to learn of each others' existence - and science - someone has to make the first move."
Gliese 581c is approximately 20 light years away from Earth, meaning it will be over 40 years before we find out if any lifeforms there want to be Bebo’s friend. Messages From Earth Beamed to Alien World [Universe Today]