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Connecting with the Cosmos

26 January 2006

In 1972, a plaque etched with pictograms designed to make contact with possible alien civilizations hitched a ride to the outer reaches of the Solar System on the Pioneer 10 probe. Today, French TV channel ARTE, in partnership with CNES*, is embarking on a new experiment in a similar vein with a programme for viewers on Earth and maybe—who knows?—from further afield ...

Searching outside the Solar System

This autumn, the COROT satellite will begin studying stars and probing space to hunt for extrasolar planetary systems. Its aim is to detect telluric planets; that is, rocky planets resembling Earth.
Le satellite Corot ; crédits : CNES/D.Ducros

Le satellite Corot ; crédits : CNES/D.Ducros

Behind this mission lies another, age-old quest—the search for our origins. Are we alone in the Universe? Are there other forms of life outside the Solar System?

COROT will cast its gaze on no less than 120,000 stars. Scientists are hoping it will unveil dozens of planets the right size and with the chemical composition to potentially harbour liquid water.



An interstellar evening

Titled CosmicConnexion, ARTE’s programme will be going out in the evening this autumn. Using a CNES antenna, it will be broadcasting texts, images and sounds in the direction of 47 Ursa Major, a solar-type star 43 light-years from Earth.

The CosmicConnexion website is looking to a large section of the public to get involved by composing messages. Texts, images, animations and sound recordings are all welcome. Your creative ideas will fire the project and fuel debate about the programme.

For CNES, it will provide an opportunity to think about how life formed on Earth and in the Universe.

Designed as a message into the unknown, the evening seeks above all to spark our imagination. Its aim is to make us want to believe there is life out there, while encouraging us to reflect on our own destiny and see humankind in a fresh light—reminding us that we still have much to do to safeguard our own planet …

*CNES is contributing scientific and technical support required to produce and broadcast the programme. It is helping to design a website, activating its education and outreach networks, and will be taking part in filming at the Toulouse Space Centre.

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