The night sky could soon have company: Chinese scientists plan to put an artificial moon into orbit by 2020 to illuminate the city's streets after dark.
Scientists hope to hang the artificial moon over the city of Chengdu. the capital of China's southwestern Sichuan province, according to a report in Chinese state media. The imitated body of the imitation – essentially an illuminated satellite – will carry a reflective coating to scatter the sunlight back to the earth, where it will complement the street lighting at night.
Scientists estimate that it could be eight times brighter than the original moon. It will also circle much closer to the earth; about 500 km away, compared with the 380,000 km of the Moon
But the ambitious plan still would not "enlighten the whole night sky," Wu Chunfeng, chief of the Tian Fu New Area Science Society, said China daily. "His expected brightness, in the eyes of humans, is about one fifth of normal street lighting."
Wu estimated that new moons could save Chengdu City around 1
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But Wu said Much more testing would need to be done to ensure that the plan is workable and will not have a harmful impact on the natural environment.
"We will perform our tests only in an uninhabited desert, so our beams will not interfere with any human or terrestrial space observation equipment," he told the Daily .
China's space targets are not unprecedented. In the 1990s, Russia experimented with the use of an orbital mirror to reflect sunlight on some of its sun-poor northern cities, according to the New York Times . The project was abandoned in 1999 after the mirror failed to develop and was burned in the atmosphere.
In January, the American company Rocket Lab launched an artificial star into space, Times reported. But scientists criticized the "Humanity Star," as the reflective minisatellite was called, because it contributed to artificial light pollution and disorder on Earth orbit.