C’è posta per E.T. (There’s a letter for E.T.!), sending a message in deep space – Cody Trip: visit ASI in Matera!

EduINAF launches the first national competition managed by the Play innovative teaching group. It’s called C’è posta per E.T. and what is asked to participants is to prepare a message to be sent to potentially habitable exoplanets. This is a challenge for italian schools, but very inspiring for a wider community; ISS Fan Club is media partner. The experiment they  are proposing is inspired by something that has already been done in the past, back in 1974. On November 16, 47 years ago, from the Arecibo radio telescope it was sent into space – towards the Globular Cluster of Hercules, 25 thousand light years away. away from Earth – a radio message consisting of 1679 binary digits. It was conceived by Frank Drake, who a few years earlier had formulated the famous equation that bears his name, used to estimate the number of existing extraterrestrial civilizations capable of communicating in our galaxy. So not a student but an American astrophysicist, then a professor of astronomy at Cornell University. He did not do everything by himself: it is said that, among those who collaborated on the project, there was also Carl Sagan, a famous astrophysicist and science writer, as well as the author of several books, including Contact, from which the film of the same name was based. So you will understand that what you are asked to do is not really a “game”: it is more like a reality task. A reality task to be carried out in a group, today as then. Because, I assure you, deciding what to say – and how to say it – to an extraterrestrial who could listen to us that we know absolutely nothing about, is not easy at all. It is necessary to make philosophical, ethical and social considerations. The themes that could emerge are multidisciplinary, from mathematics to art, passing through physics, astronomy, chemistry, biology. Then there will be those who do not want to send anything because, let’s face it, it might not be smart to turn on a torch in the woods, at night. The important thing is to talk about it, together and in a constructive way, to give substance to a message that convinces the whole group. Then it will be the turn of the form, for which art, mathematics and coding will be useful. For this you may find useful the introductory educational resource proposed by EduINAF for the occasion or the coding resources proposed by PLAY, some of which developed specifically for the competition.

At the end of the competition, before the end of the school year, ten messages will be awarded, selected by a jury of researchers and technologists from Inaf and Asi, and one of these messages will be sent to space,  13 May 2022. The selected message will be sent using the large radio telescope of the ASI Space Center in Matera. Doreen Hagemeister (contact person for the communication sector of the Matera Space Center) will take care, together with Inaf, of the selection of messages and the organization of the final event. Luciano Garramone, radio astronomy engineer of Asi, will deal with the aspects related to the transmission of the message, in collaboration with Amsat Italia, in the persons of two ham radio operators from the IK1SLD ARISS telebridge station: Claudio IK1SLD and Fabio IW1BND. The message will be transmitted first by pointing the large antenna towards the chosen exoplanet, then towards the Moon. Sending to the Moon will have a double value: it will allow many radio amateurs on Earth to receive the message as a result of its reflection on the lunar surface and will also ensure that the Moon spreads it, albeit faded, to many unknown destinations.

The day of the transmission, veryone can partecipate and visit the beautiful town of Matera and the Italian Space Agency geodetic center via the Cody Trip, a virtual online trip very inclusive. More details: on May 13, 2022, in Matera, we will make a journey from Earth to Space, visiting the city of the Sassi, capital of culture 2019, and the “Giuseppe Colombo” Space Center of ASI, from which, thanks to AMSAT Italia, the messages prepared by schools as part of the INAF competition “There is mail for E.T.”. We will spend the morning inside the Space Center in the company of researchers from the Italian Space Agency, who will talk to us about space geodesy and satellite and lunar laser telemetry and will show us the large radio-telescope that will launch the signal towards exoplanets compatible with shapes of extra-terrestrial life. The coding activity will be conducted by Maura Sandri and Alessandro Bogliolo, taking inspiration from the digital coding of the winning messages of the competition. We will dedicate the afternoon to the city of Matera to return to the Space Center after dinner, to conduct a further experiment in digital communication: we will point the radio-telescope towards the Moon, launching the message so that it is reflected on the Earth in order to be picked up by radio amateurs. As in every edition of CodyTrip we will do motor activities, read, learn, eat and play together. Thanks to specially designed technical solutions, the whole trip can be followed from any device connected to the Internet, without the need for specific applications. Simply connect to the address of the interactive page where live videos, quizzes, buttons and images will appear. This will allow even the little ones to follow the activities both from home and from school. Participation is free in order not to place any economic or administrative access barriers. By virtue of the impact that CodyTrip has shown it can have in terms of combating educational poverty, digital civic education and intergenerational dialogue, the initiative enjoys the patronage of Save the Children, Fondazione Mondo Digitale, Gray Panthers and Telefono Azzurro. CodyTrip is organized by DIGIT srl, a spinoff of the University of Urbino, in collaboration with the University of Urbino, Giunti Scuola and CampuStore. It will be a full day excursion, from 9:00 to 22:30 on May 13, 2022. The program is divided into activities whose starting times will be strictly respected to allow schools and participants to connect in time useful and to choose, if necessary, to participate only in specific activities. Between the end of an activity and the start of the next, a margin will always be granted to allow participants to get distracted and divert attention from the screens. The detailed program will be published in the coming days. Just register here and get your tickets! 

Spoken language will be italian, but what you’ll see will not need so many words!






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