The First SETI Mission –‘In 1924 All US Naval Stations Were Ordered to Listen for Alien Radio Signals’

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A SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) experiment happened decades before Project Ozma -the pioneering SETI project started in 1960 by Cornell University astronomer Frank Drake, at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory at Green Bank, West Virginia. The object of the experiment was to search for signs of life in distant solar systems through interstellar radio waves.


Historians at the blog "Letters of Note" uncovered a telegram sent in 1924 by the Chief of Naval Operations, Edward W. Eberle instructing all Naval stations to monitor the airwaves for any unusual transmissions due to anticipated contact from Martians.

 

August 22nd of that year was witness to the closest Mars opposition since 1804 (a mere 55,777,566 km), and as such provided desirable conditions in which to receive radio signals from the Red Planet. The man tasked with clearing the airwaves – a Professor David Todd – somehow managed to persuade both the Army and Navy to report any findings for a three day period, but failed to silence the country's private radio broadcasters for even two days. Needless to say, the three day exercise produced nothing but static.

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The telegram read:

“NAVY DESIRES COOPERATE ASTRONOMERS WHO BELIEVE POSSIBLE THAT MARS MAY ATTEMPT COMMUNICATION BY RADIO WAVES WITH THIS PLANET WHILE THEY ARE NEAR TOGETHER THIS END ALL SHORE RADIO STATIONS WILL ESPECIALLY NOTE AND REPORT ANY ELECTRICAL PHENOMENON UNUSUAL CHARACTER AND WILL COVER AS WIDE BAND FREQUENCIES AS POSSIBLE FROM 2400 AUGUST TWENTY FIRST TO 2400 AUGUST TWENTY FOURTH WITHOUT INTERFERRING WITH TRAFFIC”

 The image at the top of the page shows the Milky Way as it rises above the European Southern Observatory's ALMA facility in Chile. (José Francisco Salgado/ESO)

 
The Daily Galaxy via Letters of Note

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