Scientists Have Formally Invited Aliens to Visit Kentucky

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The city of Lexington, Kentucky, appears so tired of being overlooked by humankind that it has sent a formal invitation to the next-best thing: alien life that may or may not exist in a nearby star system.

It’s a tourism stunt, but the message is very real. The invitation, beamed out last fall via infrared laser toward the TRAPPIST-1 star system, is a project by the Lexington tourism bureau (yeah, we’re sending ads to aliens now). According to VisitLEX, they worked with engineers, linguists, and the FAA to make it happen. The target star is 40 light-years from Earth, which means any extraterrestrials that are eager to visit the self-proclaimed Horse Capital of the World will know they are invited in 2063.

The communication includes a bitmap of prime numbers, elements associated with life, depictions of water, ethanol, and dopamine, horse and human forms, and a landscape. It also includes several images of Lexington and an audio recording by Tee Dee Young, a blues musician from Lexington.

The advertisement currently headed for the TRAPPIST-1 star system.
Image: VisitLEX

A VisitLEX release addressed to the potential visitors advertises the lush rolling hills (perfect for landing spacecraft, they claim), horses (of course-s), and bourbon, which the tourism office admits is an an acquired taste (“It might liquify your entire body like salt on a slug,” they write. “We honestly have no idea.”)

We don’t know that any life, much less intelligent life, actually exists in the TRAPPIST-1 system. Last year, data from the Webb Space Telescope revealed that TRAPPIST-1b, one of the exoplanets orbiting TRAPPIST 1, has no atmosphere. Because life as we know it needs an atmosphere to survive, that all but confirmed there is no potential for life on TRAPPIST-1b. Webb followed up that discovery with the finding that there is also no atmosphere—or at most, a thin one—on planet TRAPPIST-1c. Luckily for the VisitLEX team, the TRAPPIST system has five other exoplanets that could theoretically host civilizations capable of interpreting their invitation.

Only time will tell how this gambit turns out. It’s worth noting that Lexington, Kentucky, and Ocala, Florida, have been debating which city is the true Horse Capital of the World for over 20 years. One would hope that aliens desiring to experience the horse capital of a planet 40 light-years distant would be willing to make two pit-stops on their interstellar sojourn. The funniest outcome, obviously, is aliens getting this message, deciding they want to make the schlepp, and declaring they preferred the horse culture in Ocala. A decidedly less-funny and more likely outcome is that the aliens arrive and promptly destroy us all.

More: Finding Habitable Worlds Must Be a Priority This Decade, U.S. Science Advisors Say

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