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On-demand star-gazing

A Japanese start-up aims to create artificial meteor showers by 2020

The first demonstration is slated for 2020 in Hiroshima. Photo: 2018 Ale Co Ltd
The first demonstration is slated for 2020 in Hiroshima. Photo: 2018 Ale Co Ltd

In recent years, people have had the chance to become a part of futuristic forays into space: be it a private trip to the moon or booking a one-way ticket to Mars. But by 2020, you might be able to see a celestial event as and when you like it.

ALE, a Tokyo-based space entertainment start-up, is planning to create on-demand artificial meteor showers with the help of microsatellites within the next two years. As part of its Sky Canvas project, the first demonstration is slated to take place over Hiroshima by 2020.

Meteor showers, like the Perseids, take place when meteoroids zip through the Earth’s atmosphere at exceptionally high speeds. Most of this cosmic debris is small—not bigger than dust particles —and disintegrates before it reaches the surface.

ALE plans to replicate this by releasing shooting star particles from two microsatellites that will be launched into outer space. “The particles will travel approximately one fifth of the way around the Earth and burn upon entering the atmosphere, becoming shooting stars visible from an area of 200 km diameter on the ground. We are planning to launch the first satellite into orbit by early 2019. The second one is planned to launch around summer 2019," an ALE spokesperson told Lounge over email.

According to a report in Japan Times, each satellite will carry around 400 of these sphere-shaped pellets. The start-up is collaborating with Tohoku University, Tokyo Metropolitan University, Kanagawa Institute of Technology and Nihon University for this project. The approximate cost of one satellite, the spokesperson adds, from design to production and operation, is estimated to be more than 1 billion yen (around 61.3 crore).

Apart from creating a visual spectacle, the start-up claims the project will add to research on the mesosphere, the layer of the atmosphere where the shooting star particles burn up. “Some scientists say the mesosphere affects the lower atmosphere where abnormal climate happens, which causes serious damage to human lives. However, there are only few human activities to obtain data about the mesosphere, such as rocket launches and Earth re-entry vehicles," the spokesperson says. The project, he adds, will provide re-entry data (on the mesosphere) that will help in further analysis.

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