Like something straight out of science fiction, or an episode of the Simpsons, China is building an artificial moon to replace traditional street lighting technologies.
Last week, at a national mass innovation and entrepreneurship event held in Chengdu, China, Wu Chunfeng the chairman of Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute, announced plans to launch an “artificial moon” in 2020.
Chunfeng has said that the purpose of the fake moon is to become an “illumination satellite” that could actually replace the city’s streetlights.
The artificial moon is predicted to be eight times as bright as the actual moon and will be able to light an area within a diameter of 50 miles. The team aims to make its presence in the night sky complimentary to the moon at night, where on Earth it will appear as a “dusk-like” glow.
China is taking on such an ambitious project due to cash concerns. According to Chinese news outlets, the artificial moon is set to replace traditional energy sources contributing to a value of 20 billion yuan in savings within five years of the launch.
This all sounds like something from a movie, but similar projects have actually been attempted before. In 1993, Russia launched the Space Mirror, an illumination mechanism used to increase the length of a day. The Space Mirror used a sheet of plastic attached to a spacecraft to reflect sunlight back down on Earth. That project was technically unsuccessful.
The artificial moon is not expected to cause any disturbances to astronomical observations. According to Kang Weimin, Ph.D., the director of the Institute of Optics at the Harbin Institute of Technology, the moonlight is equivalent to a bright evening.