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Man-Made Shooting Stars? This Japanese Invention is the Newest Form of Science Research

Dec 02, 2016 08:10 AM EST
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A startup firm in Japan will paint the sky with artificial shooting stars.

Japanese startup ALE created a project called Sky Canvas, the first orchestrated artificial meteor shower that could be displayed on demand. The plan is to launch a microsatellite in orbit, which will release tiny meteor-like particles into the atmosphere, BBC reports.

When these particles fall into the Earth, they will burn up and appear as shooting stars in the sky, which could be directed to any preferred location and could be seen within a radius of up to 124 miles (200 kilometers).

According to Universe Today, the project aims to study the behavior of meteors and reentry characteristics while putting on a good show.

"I'm very excited about this project, not only because it will turn my childhood dream into a reality, but also because it can contribute to fundamental scientific research in a new form without relying on public funds and donations," Lena Okajima, founder and CEO of ALE, said on the company website.

The satellite will be provided by Japanese company Axelspace and will measure roughly 50 x 50 x 50 centimeters. The payload will include equipment for communications and control, a meteor launcher system and the meteors, Forbes reports. ALE will load about 1,000 micro-meteors in each unit and the whole system will weigh about 50 kilograms.

Once in orbit, the satellite will fly in a sun-synchronous orbit in a highly inclined retrograde polar orbit, like some Earth-observing and spy satellites, Universe Today reports. It will move at 7.8 kilometers a second and each orbit will take about 90 minutes. The system also has the ability to "weather abort" in the case of bad weather.

As the meteors enter the atmosphere, the friction will cause them to burn as shooting stars. However, they will burn slower than real shooting stars and they will appear in different colors: white, blue, green and orange.

The company is currently working on various tests and further developing its technology. The goal is to launch the microsatellite that will deliver the meteor shower by the later half of 2017, with another launch per year.

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