Chengdu plans to launch ‘artificial moon’ into space to save on electricity

Cai Yang  Xinhua via APChina Planning Probes Manned Missions Ultimately a Base on Moon- Space Chief

The man-made moon is essentially an illumination satellite created to complement the moon at night, though it is predicted to be eight times brighter, the scientist added.

Officials in Chengdu, a city of 14 million people in China's southwestern province of Sichuan, announced plans to place a satellite in orbit by 2020 capable of reflecting sunlight onto its streets at night, claiming it will be bright enough to entirely replace street lights. The state media outlet claims that the fake moon would be able to light up an area with a diameter of 10 to 80 kilometers with officials on the ground able to focus all that the illumination on Chengdu. But little is known about the height, size and true brightness of the proposed artificial moon - all of which are factors that could affect its visibility to distant observers.

Based on a report from the People's Daily in China, inspiration came from an unnamed French artist who wanted to hang a necklace made of mirrors up above Earth to reflect sunshine on Paris at night.

Though skeptics have expressed doubt over whether the company will ever actually launch such a device, it does again raise questions over whether it is wise to fill the night sky with artificial lights. According to The Asia Times, Chengdu's artificial moon will feature a highly reflective coating that reflects the sun's rays via solar panel-like wings.

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He explained that the testing of the illumination satellite started years ago, and now the technology has finally matured. Russian scientists tried it in 1993; a second go in 1999 prompted "preemptive concerns about light pollution disrupting nocturnal animals and astronomical observation", The Guardian reports.

However some members of the public are reportedly anxious the man-made moon might have an adverse effect on animals and star-gazing.

However, Wu stressed that much work still needs to be done, both in terms of scientific feasibility and business models, to tap into the full potential of China's artificial moons.

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