At Stephen Hawking’s memorial, his message of peace was beamed into the cosmos

At a memorial service on Friday attended by more than a thousand people, the remains of renowned physicist Stephen Hawking were laid to rest at England’s Westminster Abbey. As his ashes were interred in the Scientists’ Corner between the graves of Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin, a recorded composition featuring a message from the cosmologist was being broadcast by the European Space Agency (ESA) into the nearest black hole.

Hawking, a lifelong atheist who pioneered much of the research into black holes and suffered from a rare form of early-onset ALS for many years, passed away in March at the age of 76 .

The memorial stone placed atop his grave is etched with his most famous equation, which predicts the existence of “Hawking radiation” and a representation of a black hole, along with the words, “Here lies what was mortal of Stephen Hawking, 1942-2018.”

A statement from the ESA confirmed that during the ceremony a composition by Greek composer Vangelis featuring Hawking’s words was beamed to 1A 0620-00, the nearest black hole to Earth. His daughter Lucy said, “Around the time that our father was laid to rest, the Vangelis composition with our father’s voice was broadcast into space. This is a beautiful and symbolic gesture that creates a link between our father’s presence on this planet, his wish to go into space, and his explorations of the universe in his mind.”

The service also featured a reading by actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who portrayed Hawking in the 2004 BBC biopic. Members of the public in attendance were selected by a lottery, which more than 25,000 applied for.

According to CNN, the six-and-a-half-minute Vangelis composition was played for attendees at the reception, and it will be released to the public later this year. In a statement on Hawking’s website, Vangelis wrote that he created the tribute in “sound and music, the language that I know best.”

“I imagine he will continue to travel with the same devotion, wherever he may be, in the known unknown. Farewell Professor Hawking,” he added.

The black hole that’s the destination of the broadcast is thousands of light years away in a binary system with an orange dwarf star.

“It is fascinating and at the same time moving to imagine that Stephen Hawking’s voice together with the music by Vangelis will reach the black hole in about 3,500 years, where it will be frozen in by the event horizon,” said Prof Günther Hasinger of the ESA.

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