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Sending a Song Across the Universe. Erica Nelson UCGEN 1750 Final Project. From Liverpool to Polaris.

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Sending a Song Across the Universe

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sending a song across the universe

Sending a Song Across the Universe

Erica Nelson

UCGEN 1750

Final Project

from liverpool to polaris
From Liverpool to Polaris
  • On February 4, 1968 The Beatles recorded the song “Across the Universe” at Abbey Road Studios in London. Forty years later, NASA’s Deep Space Network, an international network of antennas, beamed the song to Polaris, the North Star.
  • The song was beamed into space in order to celebrate the following:
  • The 40th anniversary of the song
  • NASA’s 50th anniversary
  • The 50th anniversary of the launch of Explorer I, the first American satellite
  • The 45th anniversary of the founding of the Deep Space Network
the transmittal
The Transmittal
  • An encrypted file of the song was transmitted to Polaris at 7:00 PM EST on 2/4/2008. The transmittal site was the Madrid Deep Space Communications Complex in Spain. People all over the world were encouraged to play the song at the same time as the transmission.
  • The photograph to the right is of the 70 meter DSS-63 radio antenna that was used to transmit the song.
the journey
The Journey
  • Traveling at a rate of 186,000 miles per second, it will take the song 431 light years to make the 2.5 quadrillion mile trip to Polaris. The song will reach the North Star in the year 2439. (I’ll spare you the “long and winding road” and “ticket to ride” puns I was originally going to include.)
the problem
The Problem
  • The Beatles are my favorite band, so I was thrilled when I first heard about them being the first band to be beamed directly into space. The song’s lyrics contain a lot of astronomical concepts. John Lennon sings about “broken light,” “restless wind,” things that “tumble blindly,” and are “limitless” and “undying.” I feel like I’m drifting through the Crab Nebula whenever I listen to the song. But as much as I like it and support NASA’s missions and research, it’s hard for me to see this as anything other than an original way to celebrate various anniversaries.

There’s no life on Polaris. But even if there was, the conditions would have to be just right for the song to be heard. (This, of course, is assuming the inhabitants can hear the same way humans do.) The inhabitants would also have to have the right equipment (an antenna and some kind of receiver and a device to play the song) in order to hear the song.


Even though I don’t think this transmission was anything other than entertaining, I like the idea of this song traveling “on and on across the universe” to the star and beyond it. Even though the chances are slim now, I like the possibility of something with the right antenna and receiver coming into contact with the transmission and hearing the song, even if just for a moment. Maybe something like that will be possible 400 years from now.

sources photographs on slides 2 and 4 are from www nasa gov
SourcesPhotographs on slides 2 and 4 are from