Tokyo-based space company ALE has announced that it will create the world’s first artificial meteor shower in 2025 – producing artificial meteors that can be seen from the UK.
The celestial light show, called Project Sky Canvas, will involve launching satellites into space and deploying “space fireworks.”
The goal is to entertain on an unprecedented scale—and also to gather atmospheric data from the mesosphere, which ALE’s developers hope will be crucial to climate change research.
The mostly unexplored mesosphere extends about 31 to 53 miles (50 to 85 kilometers) above our planet—currently too high for weather balloons and aircraft to record, but too low for satellites to reach.
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Dr Lena Okajima, founder and CEO of ALE, said: “Our goal is to contribute to the sustainable development of humanity and bring space closer to us all.
“We believe we can advance the scientific understanding of climate change while stimulating curiosity and interest in space and the universe in people around the world.”
To the delight of its creators, ground-based experiments have successfully produced polychromatic meteors — but the company says there’s no way of knowing yet whether they can be produced in orbit.
It is hoped that by studying the light emission and trajectory of each “star,” scientists can glean more information about wind speed and atmospheric composition.
The launch, originally scheduled for 2020, was delayed due to a satellite failure, but is now back on track.
But how does it work?
Meteors occur naturally when meteoroids (space dust and small asteroids) enter Earth’s atmosphere and burn up, leaving bright trails of gas in their wake.
To recreate this, tiny metal particles about 1 centimeter in size would be sent into a satellite orbiting Earth, which would then release them about 249 miles (400 kilometers) into the sky.
These particles are expected to travel a third of the way around the Earth — or more than 8,000 miles — before hitting the atmosphere at an altitude of 60-80 kilometers and lighting up the night sky. Thousands of people in different countries and possibly the UK will witness the spectacle.
The ALE said it “wanted to give people in the UK and others around the world the opportunity to watch the world’s first live artificial meteor shower”.
The company also assured that it would “take every possible precaution” to ensure that the Sky Canvas does not collide with other man-made objects and add space debris.