“Mixtape for Distant Planets”: who tried to share music with extraterrestrial civilizations

Like dozens of DJs, specialists from Norway, a simple Michigan and guys from Cape Canaveral, they are trying to let representatives of alien civilizations listen to our music.


Photo Miriam espacio / Unsplash

Michigan Man

In 1971, engineer John Shepherd wondered about the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations. He got carried away with this topic so much that he decided to try to contact aliens.

However, the way he chose was unusual – music. Every day throughout 27 years he broadcast various compositions with the help of radio equipment, which he collected and developed independently – in his personal whole laboratory

According to John, he compiled all the playlists himself – they included unusual music that could convey pure human emotions. The list includes the works of the groups Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream, as well as Harmonia. Voices of jazz performers – Ornette Coleman, Charlie Parker and Lee Morgan – were often sent to interstellar space.

After many years, John Shepherd nevertheless curtailed the project – the aliens did not respond, and it became too expensive to maintain the laboratory. But he still managed to leave his mark on the history and memory of people – Netflix filmed a documentary about his work, it came out on August 20.

Records from Cape Canaveral

In 1977, NASA launched two space probes to explore the planets of the solar system. But the devices also had a secondary mission – to carry a message to alien civilizations. To do this, they attached to the sides of the Voyager gilded gramophone records

The discs contain encoded scientific data, images of Earth views, photographs of people and animals. However, most of the message make up iconic musical compositions – works by Bach, Mozart, Stravinsky, works by Louis Armstrong and Chuck Berry, as well as folk music from various countries. You can listen to recordings from the disc on the MIT website

DJ set for “Lieuten b”

Attract the attention of aliens with sound in 2018 tried founders of the Sónar electronic music festival. They invited 35 DJs and invited them to write tracks for sending into space – towards the exoplanet Lieuten b in the habitable zone of Leuthen from the constellation Canis Minor.

To implement the project, researchers from the IEEC (Catalonia Institute of Space Studies) and METI International laboratories were involved, which creates and transmits interstellar messages to search for extraterrestrial civilizations. The broadcast was made using an antenna EISCAT in Norway.

The musical message will reach the distant exoplanet on March 11, 2030. And if intelligent life forms are present on it, their response will return to Earth no earlier than 2042.


Additional reading on Hi-Fi World:

“Hear” space: from dark matter to comet Churyumov – Gerasimenko
How space “sounds” – from ISS noise to radio waves emitted by celestial bodies
Recordings of talks between the Apollo missions and the NASA Mission Control Center


Let’s discuss what other examples of similar stories do you know? There is another question: is it worth broadcasting something like that without an accurate understanding of the recipient’s “musical tastes”?


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