Twitter From Earth Draws Avalanche of Global Attention

The Australian | 31 August 2009

By Sally Jackson


LUNA MEDIA'S Cosmos magazine has scored an astronomical success with its "Hello From Earth" Science Week initiative.


Editor Wilson da Silva devised the project, in which people were asked to submit messages to be transmitted to Gliese 581d, the nearest Earth-like planet outside our solar system with the potential to support life.

"We were asked how we could get people interested in Science Week without spending too much money, because there wasn't much of a budget. I said, 'Why don't we Twitter to the stars?'."

In just two weeks the Hello From Earth site gathered 25,880 messages from 199 countries, including non-nation states such as Vatican City and Antarctica. The messages were converted by NASA into binary code and at midday on Friday transmitted from the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex towards where the Gliese 581d solar system will be in 20.3 light years.


"We were asked in May how we could get people interested in Science Week without spending too much money, because there wasn't much of a budget," da Silva said. "I said, 'Why don't we Twitter to the stars?'.


"We bought the domain (on) August 4, designed and built it, then launched it on August 12. We got approval from NASA to use their biggest space communications dish, and convinced the federal Science Minister (Kim Carr) to ... launch it for Science Week."

In two weeks, with no advertising, the site received 1.25 million page views and 254,620 visitors. It was reported in more than 1,000 newspapers and mentioned more than 6,000 times on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

In two weeks, with no advertising, the site received 1.25 million page views and 254,620 visitors. It was linked to from 10,723 other sites, written about in more than 9,000 blogs, reported in more than 1,000 newspapers and mentioned more than 6000 times on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook.


Messages were a mix of the earnest ("We come in peace"), curious ("I just want to know what's with all the abductions?"), serious ("Our observations indicate that your planetary system is a low-mass star orbited by at least four planets, can you confirm?") and humorous ("Sorry about The Outer Limits").


Da Silva said that, as well as being a lot of fun, the project had been invaluable for the Cosmos brand. "One of the challenges you face as a niche publisher is getting visibility," he said. "There's 3,000 magazines on the newsstand; what makes you different? You have to be innovative and have fabulous ideas."


Below is the introductory video to the HELLO FROM EARTH project which appeared on the website.



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