What is encrypted on the Voyager gold plates?

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We recently received the following question from one of our subscribers:

In 1977, NASA launched two spacecraft that were supposed to explore the planets of the solar system: Voyager-1 and Voyager-2. In addition, it was planned that these devices will pick up speed sufficient to leave the solar system.

On board both Voyagers were placed information gilded plates containing a message to other civilizations. The plates are in the form of discs, approximately 30 centimeters in diameter, and are made of gold-plated copper.

The cover of the plate contains a diagram of the installation of the needle for reading on the recording surface, the playback speed and a method for converting video signals into an image recorded in a binary system.

The plate also shows the Sun, the rays show the location and distances to the 14 nearest pulsars and the center of the Galaxy, from this image it would be possible to determine the location of the Sun in the galaxy, but modern studies have shown that the distances to these pulsars are very different from those that were known in the moment Voyagers were launched, as a result, the depicted map would indicate the wrong location.

Also on the plate is an image of the two main states of hydrogen and the spectrum of its radiation, as well as the spectrum of the Sun’s radiation, by which alien astronomers will be able to recognize it among other stars.

The content of the plates of both Voyagers is identical. The disks contain information about planet Earth, humanity, its history, culture, etc. as well as appeals and greetings to representatives of other civilizations.

The series of images begins with calibration images, as well as images that allow aliens to become familiar with the symbols used in the plate, the numbers, the way of writing formulas, units of measurement, etc.

Further images contain a description of the parameters of the solar system, photographs of various planets (including the Earth) from space, structure information about human anatomy and biochemistry, stages of human life, etc.

This is followed by images of various parts of the Earth, illustrating various landscapes, biogeocenoses, climatic zones. Photos of people of different races, professions, social status. Photos of different cities on Earth, etc.

The plates contain recordings of numerous sounds of the planet Earth, such as: audio recordings of wind sounds, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, rain. Also sounds made by various animals: chimpanzee, blue whale, dog, frog, singing of various birds. Various technological sounds: the sound of a tractor, bus, car, Morse code, the sound of a launching space rocket, etc.

The plates also contain recordings of music, both modern and classical and folk. So, for example, this «album» contains, for example, such records as:

Classical music

Contemporary music

The disc contains recordings of folk songs and melodies of the following countries and peoples: Benin, Indonesia, Australia, Georgia, Bulgaria, China, India, Peru, Solomon Islands, Azerbaijan, Japan, Mexico, etc.

Voyager plates also contain an audio recording of greetings in 55 languages of different peoples of the world. Moreover, both in the languages of the largest world powers: English, Chinese, Russian, Spanish, French, German, and in relatively less common languages: Thai, Welsh, Turkish, the languages of the peoples of Africa and Polynesia, etc., as well as in the dead languages: Latin, Akkadian, Aramaic, Sumerian, etc.

It should be noted that the chance that representatives of another civilization will ever discover one of the Voyagers is extremely small and the Voyager gold plates are rather symbolic than practical. Nevertheless, it is pleasant to realize that even if humanity dies as a result of some kind of global catastrophe, its memory will remain at least in the form of these plates.