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Get ready for shooting stars on demand.
On January 17, 2019, a Japanese company called Astro Live Experiences (ALE) launched a satellite specially built to generate a meteor shower for recreational purposes.
It is expected that the 65-kilogram satellite will orbit Earth at an altitude of 400,000 meters of altitude.
ALE said the purpose of the Sky Canvas Project is to:
bring people all over the world together to witness an unprecedented, collective experience. Using space as our stage, we will constantly strive to bring to life new levels of entertainment while utilizing its technology in the development of science.
From there, the satellite will release metal pellets with about a centimeter in diameter designed to burn as they re-enter Earth’s atmosphere, mimicking the phenomenon that occurs as meteorites from outer space impact Earth.
The man-made projectiles, whose composition is kept secret, will produce a colorful spectacle of luminous stripes visible within a radius of 200 kilometers.
In fact, they will pass through the atmosphere “slower” than other celestial bodies and can be observed “for a longer period,” explains Hiroki Kajihara, one of the authors of the project.
“Compared to natural ones, our meteors are more massive and travel through the atmosphere more slowly, which allows them to be observed for a longer time,” Kajihara told Wired.
But it’s not all easy peasy.
One of the biggest technical challenges was getting the metal fragments to reach enough speed to burn during their re-entry.
For this reason, the satellite will fire the projectiles with a special mechanism that will allow them to enter Earth’s atmosphere.
ALE officials estimate that the satellite will be ready to operate within a year and hope to generate the first artificial meteorite shower above Hiroshima to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the atomic bomb attack during the Second World War.
However, while the idea may sound extremely appealing to some, experts are worried about the potential dangers such a project poses.
For example, if the company’s satellite shot its projectiles at a slightly wrong angle it could damage one of the many different satellites that orbit our planet.
As explained by Gizmodo, each satellite should be capable of “several thousand releases,” though it’s not clear how many particles will be released for a single show.
Once the satellite is out of commission, it’ll disintegrate during re-entry to minimize space debris.
“I hope that our man-made meteors will help reveal new discoveries in science,” Lena Okajima, the founder of ALE, told Wired.
“And that they will gather and entertain people under the night sky.”