Originally posted by HomoSapiensSapiens
So, a signal in the pattern of Morse Code comes from space - would we be able to pinpoint the direction it came from and how long away it originated
Yes. As Juleol said previously, to be able to receive the signal and have it show above the background noise, a large, high-gain antenna (or an array
of them) would have to be pointing pretty much right at the source. To be able to confirm the signal, the aliens would have to transmit for an
extended period of time so that we could A.) stumble across the signal, and 2.) aim other telescopes to verify the signal.
This was well-depicted in the movie "Contact". The Very Large Array
detected a signal. The operators nearly
have a heart-attack when the signal stops, but then it repeats. The next thing they do is contact another observatory to confirm the signal and
source (This is why an alien signal could not be covered-up. Since the process to determine if a signal is valid automatically brings-in astronomers
all over the world, word of the discovery would be all over the planet before TPTB became aware of it. "You can't stop the signal, Mal.").
Note that the Wow! Signal
was only detected by one telescope. The signal was not discovered in
real-time, but rather during data analysis after the fact. When the same and other telescopes searched the same area, the signal was not repeated.
By a similar token, the Arecibo Message
was transmitted only once, in a single direction.
Maybe someday it will be someone else's "Wow! Signal".
Additionally, how would we deal with it if the code translated into "Is anybody out there? Can anybody hear us?"
It would be huge news for a while, but I think it would fade into the mainstream background after a few months. I think most people recognize the
possibility/probability of intelligent life out there. The confirmation would be nice, but most of us would go about our business, IMHO.
Although Carl Sagan's "Contact" is well known, I actually think James Gunn's
was a better novel on the subject. I recommend it highly.
Finally, (providing we were able to determine where it originated from and how far away such a point of origin was) what if this message came
from somewhere like a 1000 light years away? How would we deal with that fact (it being so far away)?
In "Contact", the source of the signal was ~27 light years away (irrc), but this was only relevant because the aliens were responding to their
detection of our radio signals. There was no attempt at radio-dialogue, as such. In "The Listeners", the source was ~50 light-years away. We
detect them, send a response and get their reply nearly a century later. If the aliens are 1,000 light years away, then no radio-dialogue would be
I think that this reinforces my point above: We would finally know for a fact that "we are not alone", but it might not affect our day-to-day
lives. On the other hand, much knowledge could be gained by each side transmitting their sums of knowledge (including science, history, philosophy &
art) regardless of whether a dialogue is possible. .