Chinese city plans 'artificial moon' to light up skies

Scientists say an artificial moon could provide eight times the light of a real full moon and do away with the need for streetlights

A Chinese aerospace company has announced an ambitious plan to launch a fake moon into orbit in 2020. The artificial moon is made from a reflective coating that can aim the sun's light back to Earth and cover a span of 6 miles to 50 miles.

The illuminated orb is meant to complement the light of Earth's existing moon, and will be eight times brighter than the natural satellite, Wu Chunfeng, chairman of Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute Co.

The artificial moon will be eight times brighter than the real Moon and will be able to light an area with a diameter of up to 80 kilometres.

It also will have solar panel-like wings on its surface which can be adjusted for precise lighting.

However, one of those involved in the project, Kang Weimin, director of the Institute of Optics, School of Aerospace, Harbin Institute of Technology, said this was not the case.

Wu said they have been testing the illumination satellite for years, and they now feel it will be ready to launch in two years.

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He said "that the light of the satellite is similar to a dusk-like glow, so it should not affect animals" routines'.

Though skeptics have expressed doubt over whether the company will ever actually launch such a device, it does again raise questions over whether it is wise to fill the night sky with artificial lights.

Moonlit skies over the Chinese city of Chengdu may soon get a boost from a second moon.

This isn't the first time that a country has tried to outshine the moon. Still, the underlying concept embraced by the experiment - which The New York Times described at the time as a test of "the feasibility of illuminating points on Earth with light equivalent to that of several full moons" - remains an enticing prospect.

In 1999, a Russian experiment to deploy a large mirror in space created to function like an artificial moon was unsuccessful after it failed to unfold properly.

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