In 2008 NASA decided to send one of the heights of modern art — The Beatles' 1969 track "Across the Universe" — into the cosmos. And for 2013, one of the pillars of internet folk art is preparing for takeoff: An animated GIF is about to be sent into space for the first time ever. The message will be beamed over a giant radio dish in California tomorrow as part of the inaugural transmission of Lone Signal, a project that's hoping to communicate with extraterrestrials. The GIF will be sent toward Gliese 526, a potentially habitable solar system 17.6 light years away. It should arrive there around 2031.
The GIF features a balding man scratching his ear and has been titled "Humans watching Digital Art." Lone Signal specifically invited the GIF's creator, conceptual artist Kim Asendorf, to contribute a message for the satellite's debut transmission. If you're disappointed with what may be aliens' first impression of Earth, you have reason both for concern and relief — for a nominal cost, Lone Signal will soon allow anyone to send their message of choice out toward the stars.