According to China Daily, in a bid to replace streetlamps and reduce electricity costs in urban areas of the country, China is planning to launch its own ‘artificial moon’ by 2022. ‘Illumination satellites’ are being developed in Chengdu, a city in southwestern Sichuan province, which will be placed one in front of the other. The satellites will shine from the light of the real Moon but will be eight times brighter.
It will also orbit much closer to Earth; about 500 km (310 miles) away, compared to the moon’s 380,000 km (236,000 miles). But the ambitious plan still wouldn’t “light up the entire night sky,” Wu Chunfeng, chief of the Tian Fu New Area Science Society, told China Daily. “Its expected brightness, in the eyes of humans, is around one-fifth of normal streetlights.”
As China’s space programme races to catch up with that of the United States and Russia, a number of ambitious projects are in the pipeline, including the Chang’e-4 lunar probe — named after the moon goddess in Chinese mythology — which aims to launch later this year. If it succeeds, it will be the first rover to explore the “dark side” of the moon.
The location and brightness of the “moonbeams” can be controlled and targeted to light up specific areas, the news outlet reported.
Live Science reports that little is known about the height, size and true brightness of the proposed artificial moon — all of which could affect its visibility.
China is not the first country to try beaming sunlight back to Earth. In the 1990s, Russian scientists reportedly used giant mirrors to reflect light from space in an experimental project called Znamya or Banner. The project was abandoned in 1999 after the mirror failed to unfold and was incinerated in the atmosphere.
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