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Chinese City Wants To Launch Artificial Moon To Light Up Streets

China wants to launch a world-first ‘man-made moon’ over the southwestern city of Chengdu by 2020 to help illuminate the city at night.

If the first artificial moon experiment is successful, China will launch three more ‘moons’ in space in 2022, potentially saving electricity and conserving energy, China Daily reports.

The man-made moon that will be orbiting the Earth will have a reflective coating designed to deflect sunlight back to the earth’s surface similar to the shining of the Moon, Wu Chunfeng, head of Tian Fu New Area Science Society in Chengdu, told China Daily in an interview.

The “artificial moon” will actually be an illumination satellite that will complement the shining of the Moon at night. But the man-made moon is expected to be eight times brighter than the Moon, Wu told China Daily.

The brighter shining will be due to the much closer orbit at which the illumination satellite will stay—around 500 kilometers (311 miles) from Earth, compared to the average distance of the Moon to the Earth of 380,000 kilometers (236,120 miles), the scientist said.

“But this is not enough to light up the entire night sky,” Wu told China Daily. “Its expected brightness, in the eyes of humans, is around one-fifth of normal streetlights,” he noted.

The scientists behind the project expect that the artificial moon could replace some street lights in the urban area in Chengdu.

According to Wu, the city of Chengdu could save US$173 million (1.2 billion yuan) every year if its artificial moon illuminates 50 square kilometers (19 square miles) of the city.

The ‘moon’ may also be turned off, if needed, the scientists expect.

However, a lot of work and testing on this man-made moon still need to be done, including in the scientific feasibility and business model departments, Wu told China Daily. There are also concerns about how a new moon hanging up in the sky would affect people and animals’ day and night routines, including sleep.

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“When the satellite is in operation, people will see only a bright star above, and not a giant moon as imagined,” Wu told China Daily.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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  • Joey on October 22 2018 said:
    Will the luminous be bright enough to charge solar panels.
  • Richard Paul Clemenceau on October 21 2018 said:
    Re Chinese attempts at launching artificial moons: Just more ecological destruction from incessant ambient light.
  • Luigi Claudio on October 21 2018 said:
    This made me think of the sci-fi story Sun of China by Cixin Liu. That's as close as it gets..for now.
  • Bill Simpson on October 20 2018 said:
    Ah, no. To stay above the same spot on Earth, any object in orbit must stay at an altitude such that the orbit of the satellite matches the rotation of the Earth. That altitude is about 35,786 kilometers (22,236 miles) above mean sea level. And the only place the satellite will remain stationary with respect to any location on the Earth's surface, is directly above the equator, because the planet rotates around a fixed axis running from the north to the south pole.
    The equator doesn't run through China, so the distance to any orbiting artificial moon above the equator would be quite a bit longer than 35,786 kilometers. In order to reflect enough light to illuminate the surface of the Earth at such a great distance would require an extremely large satellite.
    The Chinese don't have a rocket sufficiently powerful to lift such a huge mass to geostationary orbit.
    Any satellite at the 311 mile high orbit the official mentions would pass over the area to be illuminated in less than 10 minutes, making it useless for illumination. The only solution to that problem would be to launch several thousand such satellites, such that at least 1 of them was always above the horizon to reflect sunlight down to the surface. Trouble is, the Earth is really big, so nearly all satellites at such a low altitude would be in Earth's big shadow most of the night. They would reflect no sunlight. And satellites tend to flip around as they orbit, so each of his reflectors would need a guidance system to keep it pointed at the right spot. For the cost of all that, you could purchase and operate millions of streetlights. And you wouldn't risk an environmental catastrophe.
    He wanted to get his name on the Internet, and knows little about satellites, rockets, or orbital mechanics.
  • Dan on October 20 2018 said:
    1/5th the light of a lamp post reminds me of shopping in a Walmart. Its horribly dark in there.

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