Galactic Positioning System

Atop a Chilean mountain, two astronomers sat at a table littered with printouts, tablets, and coffee stains.

Dr. Petrov scratched his beard and fidgeted in his chair. “It’s a computer program? You’re sure?”

The “Cygnus Signal”, as it was now known, had been received only a day earlier. It had been strong enough that people had phoned radio stations to complain about the “static”. But despite hopes that it was the beginning of some detailed interstellar “hello”, it had just stopped suddenly, leaving the world scrambling to understand it.

“I think they were just telling us where to look, for the rest of it,” replied Dr. Wilson. “More efficient to narrow-cast the bulk of the message, I’d say.”

“So if we run the program, we’ll know which direction the next part will come from?”

“Well, I thought so, but when I ran it all I got was some nonsense. But maybe I’m missing something?”

The two astronomers hunched over the table to look at the screen.

Behind them, unnoticed, the huge telescope was starting to move.

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