Decoding Secret Messages From Space!




About: Every now and then I come up with a unique idea. And then I find someone else has already thought of it . . . which is AWESOME! Who knew there were so many kindred spirits on the web! YOU GO all o' us!

This instructable shows my attempts at decoding secret messages from space . . . in the form of Fourier transformations of supercluster photos. Lemme explain.

I was reading through my Digital Image Processing book (2nd edition) about something called Fourier transforms. Without explaining the math, suffice it to say that any 2d image can be transformed into a mathematical representation called the Fourier domain. When you do a Fourier transform on a normal image, you get what looks like a cluster of stars. So me being me, I thought, what do you get if you do a Fourier transform on a picture of a cluster of stars? SECRET MESSAGES FROM SPACE!?

If you appreciate this instructible, please visit my blog for more ideas:

1. Image editing software that is capable of Fourier transformation (I'm sure there's a free astronomy tool out there SOMEWHERE)
2. Photos of objects in space (like nebulae)

Step 1: Find a Good Candidate Photo

First you must find a likely source of alien messages from space. Find a supercluster photo with a bright spot in the very center, crop or resize it to 512x512 pixels. Many Messier objects are good candidates.

Step 2: Inversely Transform the Image From Fourier Space

Perform an inverse Fourier transform (I used a shake plugin from pixelmaina), using the same image as both the real and mathematical imaginary (square root of -1) portion of the Fourier transform

Step 3: Re-Center the Image and Decode the Message

Center, Scroll (in Shake), or Offset (Filter>Other>Offset in Photoshop) the resulting image so that the brightest part is in the center. Now interpret the resulting image. This one reminds me of a planet with 50 moons and a race of sentient dog-beings.

Step 4: Areas of Future Research!

Well, obviously the signal to noise ratio is low, and a diagram of these space nebula would be more appropriate to Fourier transform than an actual photo.

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    6 Discussions


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I feel a little upset after decoding a wide-field image.

    Message read "Get a life Earthling".


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I like the "me being me" idea. And I think the creativity of seeing the similarity of star clusters to Fourier transforms is great. Now here is my research question: mask out a portion of the original star cluster, say by overlaying it with the letter "R" (R is good because it shows rotation and reversal). Now run your plugin. What effect can you see?

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Well, let me answer your question a different way. If you Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) a checkerboard, then overlay it with the letter R, and then perform another FFT, you'll get a Fourier pattern with a checkboard overlaid.

    Perform another FFT and you get a Fourier pattern with two R's overlaid, one rotated 180 degrees. That double imaged R rotated is part of the problem of using the same image to represent the real and "imaginary" portion of the FFT image, but it gets you close and is usually interpretable.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    PS: That was a joke, not an insult to the idea or execution of this instructable.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Yah, yah. Well, SETI fine for a screen saver, but I don't realy think it's a worthwhile venture m'self . . .