China to Launch 'Artificial Moon' to Light Up Night Skies

  • China to Launch 'Artificial Moon' to Light Up Night Skies

China to Launch 'Artificial Moon' to Light Up Night Skies

Seems simple enough. That's exactly what a Chinese city is planning on doing within the next couple of years - they want to launch a massive fake moon to light up the city's streets at night.

Still, the said the artificial moon is quite impressive as it is planned to be eight times brighter than the real moon.

The satellite would use a reflective coating to direct light to illuminate an area on earth of up to 50 square miles, according to Wu Chunfeng, chairman of the city's Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute. "The satellite will be able to light an area with a diameter of 10 to 80 kilometers, while the precise illumination range can be controlled within a few dozen meters". Quite a monumental project, but the Asian economic and workforce powerhouse plans to achieve this by the year 2020. "It can also illuminate blackout areas when natural disasters such as quake happen".

However, by reflecting light from the sun, the artificial moon could replace street lights, reported Chinese media. Still, the underlying concept embraced by the experiment - which The New York Times described at the time as a test of "the feasibility of illuminating points on Earth with light equivalent to that of several full moons" - remains an enticing prospect.

The first urban moon will hover above the city of Chengdu, capital of Sichuan, with a population of 14.5 million. Giulio Calenne of Chinese commerce outlet CIFnews writes that the idea has raised concerns amongst those who fear the artificial light could have adverse effects on wildlife and astronomical observation.

But according to Kang Weimin, director of the Institute of Optics, School of Aerospace, Harbin Institute of Technology, the light will amount only to a 'dusk-like glow'. "When the satellite is in operation, people will see only a bright star above, and not a giant moon as imagined".

Speaking earlier this month to Channel One Russia, the head of Russia's space programme Dmitry Rogozin said: "I don't rule out that as soon as we agree on the outlines of our lunar programme with the Americans, it is time for our manned lunar programme". If the project is deemed to be successful, China plans to send two more of its artificial moon units in the course of the next four years.