The Jamesbug Earth Station radio dish near Carmel, California (Photo: Reuters)
Do you have something to say to the universe? Well, you could stick to good old terrestrial social media to get your message out.
But Lone Signal, a California-based space technology start-up, can help expand your reach: they're offering people the chance to Tweet to aliens - or at least to beam a message out to a distant solar system.
Of course, those messages won't arrive for a while. The company has begun sending data and messages to Gliese 526, a red dwarf star located 17.6 light years away, meaning you'll have to wait almost 18 years for your message to arrive.
And if you're expecting a reply, it may take just as long to get back here (unless these presumed aliens have developed a faster-than-light communication method).
The company is using the Jamesburg Earth Station radio dish in Carmel, California to send technical information that's designed to inform anyone (or anything) that might be listening that the Earth exists, and that it's populated by humans with a radio transmitter.
Piggybacking on that transmission will be messages from Earthlings. Of course, based on a lot of what you read on social media, any aliens out there may not be all that eager to respond to the broadcast, if they understand it.
"Our scientific goals are to discover sentient beings outside of our solar system," said Lone Signal co-founder Pierre Fabre at a recent event.
"But an important part of this project is to get people to look beyond themselves and their differences by thinking about what they would say to a different civilization. Lone Signal will allow people to do that."
The company isn't betting everything on Gliese 526, or this one transmission, though. Jacob Haqq-Misra, Lone Signal's chief science officer, told the Guardian Express "the messages that the company will broadcast will be directed toward a different star system roughly once a month."
Not everyone thinks the initiative is a good idea, however.
"It's the shouting in the cosmos aspect that's the real issue here," Canadian bioethicist and futurist George Dvorsky writes on io9. "We simply do not know the risks. Consequently, we should take great care when embarking upon projects such as this."
If you're willing to take the risk, and you feel the need to send your thoughts into deep space, you can head to the Lone Signal site and sign up.
The company is offering people one text-based message free. After that, you have to pay a fee to send longer messages and images.