China Will Launch Artificial Moon to Light City Streets

China Will Launch Artificial Moon to Light City Streets

China Will Launch Artificial Moon to Light City Streets

As China's space programme races to catch up with that of the United States and Russian Federation, 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.

China has made public its plans to launch an "artificial moon" by 2020.

The city of Chengdu in China's southwestern Sichuan province has a problem with the amount of electricity and cost that it takes to light up the city's streets at night.

The satellite will shine "eight times brighter" than the real moon to act as a replacement for streetlights.

If the artificial moon illuminates 50 square kilometers of the city, Wu estimates that Chengdu could potentially save $174 million in electricity costs per year.

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The artificial moon is predicted to be eight times brighter than the real moon, Wu said.

"By then, the three huge mirrors will divide the 360-degree orbital plane ... illuminating an area for 24 hours continuously", Wu Chunfeng, head of Tian Fu New Area Science Society in Chengdu, said Thursday in an interview with China Daily. "Its expected brightness, in the eyes of humans, is around one-fifth of normal streetlights".

The man-made moon is actually a satellite carrying a huge space mirror used to reflect sunlight back down towards Earth.

Artificial light can interfere with many animals' natural cycles, such as sea turtles that hatch on beaches and return to sea by detecting the moon's brightness; migratory birds that rely on moonlight and starlight to navigate; and insects that are drawn to light (artificial lights can heat and burn them), according to the International Dark-Sky Association.

One of the perks of the artificial moons will be to "illuminate blackout areas" after natural disasters such as earthquakes.

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The announcement coincides with Chengdu's annual Moon Festival, held in mid-autumn.

The project has already being developed by the Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute Corporation and the institute have claimed that the plan is already "mature in technology". "When the satellite is in operation, people will see only a bright star above, and not a giant moon as imagined".

He added that the testing of the illumination started years ago and is now ready.

The mirror was supposed to work like an artificial moon, according to a CNN report back then, reflecting sunlight onto several regions in Russian Federation and other former Soviet republics before reaching Germany and the Czech Republic.

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