This guide is brought to you by Atlas Obscura, and is dedicated to this question: If aliens ever do make contact with the earth... Where will they park?
Part One: Contact
Allen Telescope Array, United States
Hey E.T. we're listening, and we have a lot of ears.
SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) refers to the entire field of study dedicated to finding evidence of life in the stars overhead, and the SETI Institute has taken that study to "new heights" (pun intended). Enter, the Allen Telescope Array (ATA).
Located in northern California at the Hat Creek Radio Observatory, the ALA is comprised of 42 satellites that work in conjunction to study such stellar phenomena as black holes and dark matter. Piggybacking on these scientific observations, the array also listens for transient radio signals that might be evidence of alien intelligence. If aliens are transmitting, this is likely where they will be heard.
Regular tours of the site are available, but as of April 2011 the ATA has been put in operational hibernation due to budget cuts, leaving the project as quiet as the vacuum of space. If ET calls he might not even be able to leave a message but if he drops by, he might come looking for who's been eavesdropping. (Photo source)
Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico
The single-aperture radio telescope... to the stars!
While not the most prolific transmitter of interstellar "oh hai's," the satellite at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico is certainly the most famous, having been featured in multiple films and TV programs such as Goldeneye and of course, The X-Files.
At 1,000 feet in diameter, the observatory's radio telescope had to be built in a massive preexisting sinkhole. Astronomers commemorated its epic construction with a shout at the heavens co-created by Carl Sagan called the Arecibo Message, which was fired into the cosmos in 1974. Aimed at a star cluster 25,000 light years from Earth, the message contained such information as the base 10 numbers, a human stick figure and even a crude picture of the dish itself.
Given that the round trip for the original Arecibo message is estimated at 50,000 years, it was considered more of a technological demonstration for the landmark satellite than a legitimate attempt to lure our cosmic brethren. However, should it be intercepted by a passing UFO, this massive telescope would act as both a beacon and hard-to-miss landing pad. (Photo source)
In Russia, satellite call you!
If the Arecibo telescope is the Alexander Graham Bell of galactic cold calling, then the RT-70 telescope at the Center for Deep Space Communications in Yevpatoria is your teenage cousin calling around to find a party.
This Russian telescope has been the source of more missives targeted at extraterrestrials than any other major site. Colorfully named transmissions such as "Cosmic Call" and "Teen Age Message," containing snippets of our arts, history and science have been precisely targeted at nearby (in cosmic terms) stars and constellations in that hopes that an alien race may be listening just like we are.
Despite their catchy names, most of the transmissions consisted of broken down data meant to be as basic a representation of our intelligence as possible. However with so many transmissions going out, the otherwise stuffy scientists found room in the "Teen Age Message" to feature a Theremin symphony, lest any spacemen think we are simply a race of mathletes.
Given the amount of galactic noise pouring out of the Yevpatoria satellite, if we do get a race to answer us, they might just arrive to tell us to shut up. (Photo source)
Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
The world's largest port actually intended for spacecraft.
With NASA's funding being slashed to the bone, the US may not even have a place for the aliens to land when they come. But not to worry, because just around the globe in Kahzakhstan is the world's largest spaceport, and it is still bustling.
The Baikonur Cosmodrome is the largest space launch site in the world featuring 16 launch pads capable of sending off both manned and unmanned spacecraft in addition to a number of military capabilities. The vast complex features a dedicated rail system for inter-complex travel and has been home to some of Man's most influential leaps in space history including the launch of Sputnik, the first craft sent into outer space and the sending of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space. One of the launchpads is named Gagarin's Start in his honor.
The facility continues to host regular space launches including missions to the International Space Station. For any tourists, terrestrial or otherwise who might want to come in for a landing, you can visit the nearby shuttle debris landing site and take home a spent piece of rocket staging which the government no longer bothers to pick up. (Photo source)
Part Two: Communion
Gold Base, United States
You do not have enough Thetans to enter.
With talk of Galactic Confederacies, cosmic tyrants and disembodied souls, the doctrine behind Scientology can be confusing, but one theme cuts through the secrecy: aliens have visited us, and they may be coming back. Should the galactic presence make good and return, it's likely that their first stop will be to their faithful followers at the church's headquarters, Gold Base.
Sitting behind an intimidating security fence in the hills east of Los Angeles, the compound acts as the organizational heart of the religion of Scientology. Formerly a popular Hollywood resort, Gold Base is now home to many of Scientology's major projects and its highest level members including leader, David Miscavige. The promotional arm of the religion, Golden Era productions, churns out hundreds of promotional videos a year, while across the facility workers manufacture the Thetan-reading "E-Meters" seen at stress tests on street corners around the world. The base also houses the mansion of church founder L. Ron Hubbard, which is kept fully staffed for the day he returns in a new body.
The secretive compound is not open to the public but you are free to join one of the many pickets at the gates, and if you are lucky, you may be witness to the return of the Galactic Confederacy. (Photo source)
Embassy for Extraterrestrials, TBA
Building a cozy place our extraterrestrial fathers can come home to.
The sexually-progressive Raelians believe our species was created by a race of extraterrestrial beings known as the Elohim. According to the religion's doctrine, these creator aliens have appeared to us through many personas including Jesus and the Buddha, and according to the official website "the Elohim have respectfully expressed a desire to come and meet with us." But not until we construct a "Embassy for Extraterrestrials," goddamnit.
No mere fever dream, plans for the embassy are shockingly specific. Among exacting architectural specifications the embassy would require a dining room large enough for 21 people and a surrounding park to provide privacy for the facility and its mandatory swimming pool. The total cost of the project is estimated at $37 million dollars. According to the Raelians it is a small price to pay to usher in a Fortean age of peace and love.
The preferred location for the Embassy for Extraterrestrials was to be in the country of Jerusalem, but local leaders were not interested in hosting the galactic landing pad. When the project finds a home it is believed that the Elohim will return, however Raël's followers need to hurry because according to their own scripture the embassy must be built by 2035, or the aliens will get impatient and we may never get to make contact with our cosmic progenitors. (Photo source)
Nazca Lines, Peru
Alien landing strip or ancient scratchitti?
On a windless plateau in Peru you will find hundreds of shallow paths in the red rock revealing the white ground beneath. You can follow them for great distances around swirls and down long dead-ends, but it took the first aerial view in the 1930's to discover the purpose of these paths.
The Nazca lines, as the grooves are known, are a series of enormous geoglyphs carved into the ground of the plateau by the ancient Nazca People around 400 CE. The area features hundreds of images depicting animals, geometric lines and shapes, and even a few human beings. However the scale is so large and the images so artful that some believe no primitive culture could have produced the works on their own. The method of creation and purpose of the colossal images is still debated by scientists, but alternative theorists (also known as crackpots) believe the lines to be primitive astronomical measurements, and some even purport the lines act or have acted as a runway for extraterrestrials.
Whatever the truth of the mysterious formations, if the aliens do return to see what has happened to the quaint people they visited so long ago, they should have no problem finding the landing strip. (Photo source)
To read parts III and VI of this fine travel guide to first contact, visit Atlas Obscura!
This post originally appeared on Atlas Obscura.