The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico

Observatory Releases Next Puzzle for New Arecibo Message – Global Challenge

By: Zenaida Gonzalez Kotala on

The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico marked Earth Day on Monday by releasing its second puzzle challenge as part of the New Arecibo Message – Global Challenge.

Dozens of teams from around the world have already qualified to move onto the next phase of the challenge. Astronomers Frank Drake and Carl Sagan led the staff at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico in the creation of a radio message that was beamed from the observatory into space in 1974. The message contained depictions of the Arecibo telescope, the solar system, DNA, a stick figure of a human, and some of the biochemicals of earthly life. The new challenge asks teams of students from kindergarten to college to submit their version of a new message that would represent the human race today.

The global challenge requires teams to solve complicated online puzzles before getting access to submit their message for consideration. Arecibo posted its first online puzzle challenge Nov. 16. Students from Australia, Puerto Rico, South America, North America, India, and Europe are already in the second stage of the challenge. Teams have until June 21 to complete the puzzles, design their proposed message and submit.

A winner will be selected and unveiled during the Arecibo Observatory Week activities planned for November, which includes the special celebration of the 45th anniversary of the original Arecibo message. The University of Central Florida manages the National Science Foundation-supported facility under a cooperative agreement with UAGM and Yang Enterprises Inc.

“There’s been a tremendous interest in the challenge,” says Francisco Córdova, director of the observatory and an engineer. ”We know collaboration across disciplines, ages, and cultural backgrounds makes the teams stronger and leads to some of the best ideas, so we thought to consider team diversity an important component of the competition.”

Based on the initial response, organizers created an online community in February to help provide a place where teams could come together virtually.

“If you did not find your team yet or if you are looking for a mentor, you can make use of the online community to connect with other participants and join this exciting journey,” says Alessandra Pacini, a research associate at the observatory who is part of the team running the competition.

“We can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with,” Pacini says. “It is exciting to see all the interest and we can’t wait to see the creative proposals.”

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