Spacechips launch ad attack on aliens

It seems you just can’t escape advertising nowadays – and yes, I know that includes this very site! But I must admit a feeling of gloom to read that a crisps manufacturer is to start beaming ads into space.

Svalbard radio dishesMore depressing still was that I read about it in a press release from a respected British university that showed they were clearly proud to be involved.

Space scientists at Leicester have agreed to help snack giant Doritos beam a 30-second commercial to any unsuspecting inhabitants of a star system in the constellation of the Great Bear.

It may be no coincidence that this comes at a time when, as has been widely reported, British science is facing a funding crisis and we face the unthinkable threat that the UK’s most famous astronomy centre, Jodrell Bank, might close.

Doritos, who make corn chips, are calling on the public to produce the advert, which sounds like a YouTube movie, with the theme of Life on Earth. And they have called on the expertise of Leicester’s space team to broadcast the ad on June 12 using a powerful radar dish at the EISCAT space centre on Svalbard, inside the Arctic Circle.

Last month it was revealed that some alien-hunters within SETI are calling for messages to be directly beamed into space to speed up the search for extra-terrestrials.

All radio and TV signals have previously been leaking unavoidably into space. But the new space advertisement will be a clear message to the residents of planets orbiting 47 Ursae Majoris, a star that lies just 42 light-years away from us.

That means the spacechips ad will not reach ET until 2050. But there are some who feel that it is a mistake to alert any other civilizations about our presence. Last month, Nasa broadcast the Beatles hit Across The Universe to the North Star, Polaris. Those aliens will not be able to hear it until the year 2439.

Professor Tony van Eyken, of EISCAT, said: “With the transmission technology and planning we are employing, there is a much greater chance that the Doritos advert will potentially be seen by any alien life form.”

Picture: The dishes at Svalbard, pictured by Tom Grydeland.

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Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.
Paul Sutherland

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Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

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