A bold new tourism campaign by the city of Lexington, Kentucky aims to attract visitors from beyond our solar system. Using powerful lasers, scientists recently transmitted an open invitation inviting any listening extraterrestrials to come experience Lexington’s famous bourbon, horses, and Southern hospitality.
Interstellar Billboard Proclaims “Ya’ll Come Visit Now!”
On January 12th, 2024, a high-powered laser at the Kentucky Horse Park transmitted an interstellar billboard advertisement directly towards the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system located just 40 light years away. This system contains at least 7 rocky exoplanets which may be capable of supporting life.
The cheekily-worded laser transmission proclaimed:
“Hello space friends! We are humans from the great city of Lexington in the United States of America. Our city is famed for its horses, bourbon whisky distilleries and Southern hospitality. Ya’ll come visit now! We’ll leave the red carpet out for ya!”
Tourism Board Hopes to Attract Alien Visitors
The transmission was orchestrated by Lexington’s tourism board, VisitLEX, which hopes to entice any technologically-advanced spacefaring civilizations to come sample Lexington’s charms.
Mary Quinn Ramer, president of VisitLEX, explained the thinking behind this novel promotion:
“We have world famous attractions, arts and culture, a booming culinary scene, and of course our beautiful horses and bourbon. We think aliens will be just as enchanted by Lexington as our earthly visitors. This was a fun, innovative way for us to creatively imagine a new type of visitor to Lexington.”
Message Sent to Nearby TRAPPIST-1 System
The interstellar billboard message was transmitted directly towards the TRAPPIST-1 system about 40 light years from Earth. This system shot to fame in 2017 when astronomers discovered it hosts at least 7 closely-orbiting rocky exoplanets. Further studies found that several of these alien worlds orbit in the star’s habitable zone and may be capable of having liquid water on their surfaces.
Given its relative proximity and abundance of potentially habitable worlds, TRAPPIST-1 has been flagged as a promising target in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. As VisitLEX president Mary Quinn Ramer quipped:
“We figure our neighbors just down the cosmic street in TRAPPIST-1 seem like a friendly bunch, so hopefully some of them will take us up on our invitation!”
Alien Response Unlikely for Decades
While creative, most scientists agree VisitLEX shouldn’t hold its breath waiting for alien tourists to start arriving any time soon.
Since TRAPPIST-1 lies 40 light years away, even if the system hosts a technological civilization, it would take at least 40 years for any radio reply to make it back to Earth.
More realistic is an actual alien visitation, but traversing the vast interstellar Gulf between stars poses huge challenges. The breakthroughs in propulsion, hibernation, and resources needed to bridge this void may remain out of reach for centuries to come.
As Dr. Andrew Siemion, director of the Berkeley SETI Research Center, commented:
“While a fun thought experiment, we shouldn’t realistically expect alien tourists arriving in their flying saucers over Lexington any time in the foreseeable future. The distances are just too enormous and the physics too challenging.”
Locals Excited by Interstellar Tourism Pitch
While actual alien visitors may be a pipe dream, Lexington residents have enjoyed the publicity generated by this playful PR stunt.
Pausing from mucking out the stall of her prize-winning racehorse Firebolt, Lexington native Jenna Park chimed in:
“We’re tickled by just the idea of aliens seeing our invitation. I mean, can you imagine creatures from an utterly foreign world reading about our bluegrass and bourbon then saying ‘Hey honey, let’s take the saucer on a holiday down to Kentucky!'”
Bourbon Industry Welcomes Alien Connoisseurs
Chuck Caldwell, Master Distiller at Lexington’s award-winning Green Moss Distillery, likewise approves of promoting Kentucky’s signature spirit across the cosmos:
“Here at Green Moss we’ve spent over 150 years perfecting our whiskey recipes. I reckon alien taste buds can’t be too different from humans’, so I say bring on those little green fellers and let’s see if we can’t find a bourbon that suits their fancy! Though breathing all that ammonia in their atmosphere might be why they’re green come to think of it…”
Interstellar Reply not Unprecedented
While overflowing with optimism and humor, Lexington’s interstellar billboard message is not completely unprecedented.
In 2008, NASA beamed the Beatles song “Across the Universe” towards the distant Polaris star. More substantially, in 1974 a powerful radio telescope broadcast the “Arecibo message” towards the globular star cluster M13 some 25,000 light years distant. Encoded in binary, this transmission contained basic information about humanity and Earth.
Most famously, in the 1990s the SETI Institute trained powerful radio telescopes towards various star systems in an attempt to detect potential alien radio signals.
So while they may be the first American city to directly beam an interstellar tourism advert into space, Lexington is joining an elite and imaginative group focused on making contact with extraterrestrial intelligence.
Aliens or Not, “Ya’ll Come Visit!”
Yet even if little green alien tourists fail to materialize in the Kentucky hills, VisitLEX considers its interstellar campaign an unbridled success.
As VisitLEX’s Mary Quinn Ramer concludes:
“We’re thrilled this campaign has generated so much excitement and laughs while showcasing what a diverse, welcoming city Lexington is. And who knows – we may just hear back from ET one of these days! But in the meantime, aliens or not, if you’re an earthling visitor we invite ya’ll to come experience some real Southern hospitality and our bluegrass charm!”
|Type of Visitor
|Unique Local Flavors
|Kentucky Horse Park
|Red River Gorge
|Kentucky Horse Park
|Red River Gorge
|Hot brown sandwich
|Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill
So whether you have two legs or ten tentacles, two eyes or five eye-stalks, Lexington offers unmatched attractions and flavors that are truly out of this world! As the new interstellar tourism slogan goes: “Ya’ll Come Visit Now!”
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