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Earth is sending a calling card to the cosmos—a series of radio signals to start an interstellar conversation with an alien civilization.

Says Douglas Vakoch, president of San Francisco-based METI (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence): “The signals are designed to be detectable. We want to make contact.”

And METI’s current target—the exoplanet GJ 273b—is “potentially habitable,” he says.

The first messages, moving at the speed of light, and shot out of a transmitter in Tromso, Norway last October, have already traveled a trillion miles.

Yet GJ 273b, though one of the nearest exoplanets, is unimaginably distantmore than 70 trillion miles away.

“It will take just over twelve years for our signals to get there,” Vakoch says.

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