London, June 13 : Experts at the EISCAT European space station on the Norwegian island of Svalbard recently sent an advertisement of the famous Doritos tortilla chips into space, hoping that some aliens might identify the message.
The scientists directed the advertisement towards a solar system in the Ursa Major constellation, just 42 light years from Earth, which contains a habitable zone, and might host an Earth-like planet and extraterrestrial life.
This is the first time when a team of researchers has broadcast any such advertisement in space.
The researchers sent the message using an array of radars, which are normally used to study the Earth's upper atmosphere.
"They are among the brightest signals coming off our planet - almost like a lighthouse beaming out of the solar system," New Scientist magazine quoted Tony van Eyken, EISCAT director, as saying.
That makes the radars ideal for transmissions far into space, he adds.
Van Eyken says that the message itself is unlikely to be decoded by extraterrestrial life.
"We're sending it as an MPEG file coded into 1s and 0s. It's going to look pretty random," he says.
He, however, believes that a repeated broadcast of the advertisement in a series of regular pulses over several hours might help extraterrestrials identify the message as intelligent.
Doritos will donate an undisclosed amount to EISCAT for the use of their facilities.
"It's not big money, but it could be the thin end of the wedge to using our resources in a new way," van Eyken says.
"Some years in the future, the money that comes from this kind of commercial service could be used to fund pure research," van Eyken adds.
Entitled 'Tribe', the advertisement can be seen by UK residents when it is telecast on ITV1 on Sunday morning.