• About Sagan:
  • Sagan has published over 600 scientific papers in his lifetime.
  • Sagan attended the University of Chicago throughout his academic studies, from his bachelor's to both his doctorates in astronomy and astrophysics.
  • Sagan was the designer of the first physical message to potentialextraterrestrials: a plaque attached to the Pioneer 10 probe. The plaque contains pictures of a human male and female, and indications of the location of the solar system, as well as the planet Earth, should the plaque ever be able to direct an alien species to us.
  • In addition, Sagan also crafted a message along with Frank Drake, creator of the Drake equation, that was beamed from the Aricebo radio telescope.
    The phrase “billions and billions” is often associated with Sagan, but he never actually used it. Instead, comedians parodying him would play on his use of his phrase “billions of stars”. Sagan did, however, end up naming his final book after the phrase.
  • Speaking of billions and billions, one Sagan is equal to at least four billion. It is not an actual fixed number, nor is it recognized as a form of measurement, but is merely a tribute to Sagan's (as well as those that poked fun at him) use of the number.
  • Isaac Asimov called Sagan one of the two people smarter than himself. The other was Marvin Minsky.
  • About the novel:
  • The heroine of the story, Eleanor Arroway, is named after Eleanor Roosevelt and Francois-Marie Arouet (Voltaire).
  • Sagan received two million dollars as an advance for writing the novel. At the time, this was the largest advance ever paid.
  • Project Argus did not exist at the time of the book's publication. However, in 1996, the SETI League attempted to have five thousand small microwave telescopes searching for intelligent life, under the name “Project Argus”. The project (which does not seem to have publically taken its name from the novel) never got far.
  • The reason Sagan used the term “Project Argus” in the first place was to refer to the mythological monster with a thousand eyes over its body. Imagine a thousand radio telescopes looking into the night sky and the connection becomes clear.
  • About the film:
  • Robert Zemeckis directed the movie, and Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey were cast as Eleanor Arroway and Palmer Joss, respectively.
  • A speech by President Bill Clinton is edited for the film. The speech is vague enough to sound like President Clinton is referring to the Message.
  • During the filming at Aricebo and the Very Large Array, actual data was being recorded for scientific use.
  • Cameo roles include Jay Leno, Larry King, Geraldine Ferarro, and Ann Druyan.
  • The line "a terrible waste of space," repeated by several characters throughout the film, is actually a quote by Carl Sagan.
  • About the science involved:
  • Vega, the star from which Earth receives the Message, is about 25.3 light years away. This is a bit off from the distance of 26 light years given in the novel. A message and response from Vega would thus take 50.6 years. The 1936 Olympic games were broadcast in August of that year, so a prompt response from Vega would arrive in early 1987. In order for the Message to be received in the timeframe that is presented in the novel, the Vegans would have to have waited for about six years before beginning their broadcast.
  • More facts about Vega:
    It is part of the constellation Lyra, and makes up the right angle point of the Summer Triangle.
    It is the second brightest star in the nighttime sky, after Arcturus.
    It is twice the size of our sun, but will only last as long.
    Vega's right ascension is 18 hours, 36 minutes, and its declination is 38 degrees 47 minutes.
    Vega may have at least one planet. A large mass of debris circles around the star.
  • The 1936 broadcast is in fact the first broadcast into space.
  • SETI has yet to find anything intelligent, but the search for intelligent life has lead to the discovery of pulsars and quasars.
  • Prime numbers rarely, if ever, appear naturally, and is thus the reason the Message's easiest piece broadcasted the first 261 prime numbers.