The big picture: Earlier this year, the world was saddened by the news that the most famous scientist of our time, Stephen Hawking, had passed away at the age of 76. As the British physicist spent much of his life researching black holes, he is receiving a fitting tribute to recognize that fact: his voice is being beamed into space, directed toward the nearest known black hole.
After Hawking’s ashes are interred between the graves of Charles Darwin and Sir Isaac Newton at a memorial service at Westminster Abbey today, his “message of peace and hope” will be sent to the stars.
The speech will be set in the middle of an original six-and-a-half-minute score by Vangelis, the Greek composer responsible for the rousing themes from Chariots of Fire and Blade Runner.
The European Space Agency will beam the piece from a satellite dish in Cebreros, Spain to 1A 0620-00—a black hole 3500 light years from Earth.
Exactly what Hawking says in the speech isn’t clear. Speaking to the BBC, his daughter Lucy said, "It is a message of peace and hope, about unity and the need for us to live together in harmony on this planet."
Those in attendance will get to hear the music played at the reception, and each person will receive a CD featuring the track. It will be released to the public at a later date.
In addition to his family and friends, 1000 members of the public who applied for places in a ballot will attend today’s service—over 25,000 people tried to secure tickets. Among those giving readings and addresses are actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who played Hawking in a BBC drama, and astronaut Tim Peake.