China to launch 'artificial moon' to illuminate city streets

The Long March-5 Y2 rocket takes off from Wenchang Satellite Launch Center in Wenchang Hainan Province China

According to local reports picked up by the Asia Times, the city has been evaluating the technology behind an artificial moon for years and has tested it enough to feel it's ready for launch.

An "illumination satellite" could be in place by 2020 and is said to be eight times as bright as the real moon. 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.

Officials in China are planning to launch a man-made moon to rest in the sky above the south-western city of Chengdu. The Norwegian town of Rjukan installed three large computer-controlled mirrors to track and reflect sunlight in 2013; in the 1990s, Russian astronomers succeeded in launching a satellite into space to deflect sunlight back to Earth, but a second attempt in 1999 failed.

Exact details about the new moon and the launch date haven't been released, but Wu said scientists have been working on the idea for years and that technology has finally matured.

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The freakish plan, which would give a "dust-like glow" for the south-western city of 14 million, was revealed in the People's Daily newspaper. 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.

The artificial moon might replace some street lights in the urban area, thus conserving energy.

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.

A Chinese city's plans to launch a man-made moon to replace street lights has been met with derision and incredulity online. The scheme used a device known as the Znamya 2, which was equipped with a 25-meter mirror to illuminate a three-mile radius of land.

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