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Hello Out There!

In October 2024, NASA will send a message to a place in space where life might exist.
A metal plate with a drawing of a bottle, a portrait of a man, and a poem etched on it and the reverse with sound waves etched on it.
NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA will send this message into space aboard its Europa Clipper spacecraft, which will head to one of Jupiter’s moons.

Is Earth the only place where life exists, or are there living things in other parts of the universe? Scientists don’t know the answer yet. But in a few months, NASA will launch a message into space.

NASA is calling its project “Message in a Bottle” because it’s sort of like putting a written message into a bottle and throwing it into the ocean, hoping someone will find it. NASA’s message is engraved, or etched, onto a metal plate. The plate will be attached to NASA’s Europa Clipper spacecraft, which will be launched in October 2024. Clipper will travel 1.6 billion miles (2.6 billion kilometers) to Europa, which is one of Jupiter’s moons. The spacecraft will then take pictures and collect information about Europa. Scientists are interested in Europa because there’s an ocean under its surface. Liquid water is necessary to support life, so any time scientists find water beyond Earth, they study the possibility that life exists there.

If there is life on Europa, it won’t respond to NASA’s message. For one thing, it would be marine (sea) life, and it could be very tiny and not very complex. But if intelligent aliens ever do discover the metal plate, they’ll know that it was made by living beings. Maybe they’ll even figure out that it was made by living beings on Earth.

NASA’s message was inspired by Earth’s water and how it makes life possible here, just as water might make life possible on Europa. Here’s what is etched on the metal plate:

  • A poem written by Ada Limón, the poet laureate (national poet) of the United States. It’s called “In Praise of Mystery: A Poem for Europa.”
  • An illustration of a bottle inside the Jupiter system, which includes the planet along with its rings and moons.
  • A portrait of Ron Greeley, a scientist who was involved in NASA’s early efforts to send a spacecraft to Europa.
  • Drawings of sound waves. The waves represent the sound of the word water as it is spoken in 103 different languages.

If you’re interested in reading Limón’s poem, you can find it on NASA’s website.



NEWS EXTRA!

April Fool!

A refrigerator is full of food that has googly eyes stuck on it.
© Andrii Rafalskyi, Karen Hoar, Teresa Kenney, Serhii Yevdokymov, Giaco86/Dreamstime.com; © Andrei Vasilev—iStock, istetiana—Moment/Getty Images; Photo illustration Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

April 1 is April Fools’ Day. Putting googly eyes on food may seem weird, but it’s a classic April Fools’ prank. Read our April Fools’ feature by clicking the button below !

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Did You Know?

Scientists study faraway planets to figure out which ones could support life. Check out the video to learn what clues they look for!
NASA/JPL

A Giant World

© Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Europa is one of 95 moons that orbit Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system. Here’s just some of what we know about this giant world, from its Great Red Spot to winds that would blow us all away!

  • Jupiter is so big that if it were hollow, 1,000 Earths could fit inside.
  • The stripes on Jupiter’s surface are actually clouds made up of ammonia and water.
  • Jupiter’s famous Great Red Spot is a storm that has been active for hundreds of years.
  • Jupiter’s north pole is surrounded by giant storms called cyclones.
  • Winds on Jupiter can reach 900 miles per hour (1,450 kilometers per hour) at the poles and more than 400 miles per hour (644 kilometers per hour) at the Great Red Spot.
  • Life on Jupiter is unlikely. The temperature on Jupiter is extremely cold, and the planet’s atmosphere is made up of ingredients that are toxic to any living things we’re familiar with.
  • Jupiter is a gas planet, so it doesn’t have a solid surface. If we sent a spacecraft to land on Jupiter, it would sink into the gases and then get crushed by the extreme pressure inside the planet.

Click on the planets in the infogram above to learn more about them!

Where Did That Come From?

A person looks through a telescope and sees a lit up green object floating in the sky.

© PCH-Vector—iStock/Getty Images Plus; Animation Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.



You may have heard stories of unidentified flying objects, or UFOs. Scientists also call them unidentified anomalous phenomena, or UAPs. A UFO is any flying object that can’t be identified. But some people believe they’re operated by aliens.

You can learn more about UFOs at Britannica!

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Word of the Day

affinity

Part of speech:

noun

Definition:
: a feeling of closeness and understanding that someone has for another person because of their similar qualities, ideas, or interests
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