Chinese city plans 'artificial moon' to light up skies

Cai Yang  Xinhua via APChina Planning Probes Manned Missions Ultimately a Base on Moon- Space Chief

Cai Yang Xinhua via APChina Planning Probes Manned Missions Ultimately a Base on Moon- Space Chief

The project will get completed by 2020.

The satellite is effectively a giant mirror that will redirect sunlight back down on Chengdu even after the Sun sets.

This bold plan never came to fruition, but as Chinese news outlet The People's Daily reports, an illumination satellite inspired by the idea may brighten the streets of Chengdu as soon as 2020.

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This is due to the object's planned orbit about 500km above Earth-much closer than the 380,000-km distance to the moon, Wu said. "By then, the three huge mirrors will divide the 360-degree orbital plane, realising illuminating an area for 24 hours continuously", Wu said.

The artificial moon will be eight times brighter than the real moon, People's Daily says, and will light an area between 10 to 80 kilometers in diameter, though the range can be controlled within a few dozen meters. The satellite could be picked up on a telescope, Fortune reports, if you don't want to make the trip to Chengdu.

If successful, the man-made "moon" could replace streetlights.

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The light emitted would be enough to entirely replace street lights, researchers believe, and if it covered 50 square kilometres, it could save $1.2 billion yuan ($A240 million) in electricity costs each year. "It can also illuminate blackout areas when natural disasters such as quake happen".

According to the International Dark Sky Association, which advocates for the protection of night skies, living under light-polluted skies is a grave health hazard as our biological clock evolved to match the day-night cycle, and exposure to artificial light at night has been linked to an increased risk of obesity, sleep disorders, depression and more. The Telegraph's Joseph Archer reports that Russian scientists launched a mirror-equipped spacecraft created to brighten Siberia's sun-deprived streets back in 1999.

He said China, Russia, the United States, Japan and European countries are all looking to capitalise on harnessing energy from space, and reflecting mirrors have been in the discussion for some time.

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