How Far Radio Signals Have Traveled Through Space

By Vince Matthews

In the new movie Pixels, aliens receive video signals of classic arcade games – which they interpret as a declaration of war and attack Earth. It’s fantasy, but the truth is humans have been sending radio signals into space for about 100 years.

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Broadcasters have been putting radio signals into space since the early 1900s.

Just how far have those signals traveled into space? (Signals, which by the way, are in some cases so weak someone would need some pretty advanced technology to pick them up.) Well, it turns out, in the grand scheme of things, not that far.

Still curious? About 200 light years…

To put that into perspective, take your mouse cursor and place it on the image of the galaxy above. Your mouse cursor/pointer is about 1,000 light years wide. So while scientists like Stephen Hawking may have fears that we are broadcasting our presence in the galaxy to aliens, it would probably be a very, very long before they hear us. And if any aliens were to receive our radio signals, what would they hear?

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Since it takes signals a while to travel into space, the further out you go, the older the signals are. Closer to Earth, the “playlist” is more current.

Lightyear.fm will tell you. By scrolling Lightyear.fm’s website, you travel away from Earth. In nearby Earth orbit, an astronaut might be jamming to Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” from 2015. Further out, like 105 light years from Earth, they might be hearing the 1910 song, “Call Me Up Some Rainy Afternoon” by Ada Jones & American Quartet.

Taking the audible tour of the galaxy with Lightyear.fm is best enjoyed with a set of headphones and it’s a very humbling experience.

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Lightyear.fm will take you on an audible journey to the far reaches of our solar system.

Space…the Final Frontier
Space exploration is on everyone’s mind in light of recent events like the New Horizons mission and SpaceX announcing plans to put men on Mars within the next decade. Looking for a way to inspire a kid about space? Digital Media Academy’s next generation space camp can lay the foundation for your child’s future.