A Chinese company is developing an artificial moon which would be used to illuminate city streets and save energy.
The Chinese city of Chengdu is working on a plan to replace the city’s streetlights with a fake moon. The news was announced by Wu Chunfeng, chairman of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute. According to Wu, the development of the satellite began some years ago. However, the technology has now advanced enough to allow for a proposed launch in 2020.
The artificial moon would light an area with a diameter of between 10-80 kilometres. Furthermore, the precise illumination range can be controlled within just a few metres. The exact details of the satellite are yet to be revealed, but it has been reported that it will have a coating to reflect light from the Sun. It could also have solar panel-like wings which adjust to focus the light on precise locations.
Chengdu’s project is not the first time something like this has been attempted. In the 1990s, a Russian team launched a satellite designed to deflect sunlight back to Earth, briefly illuminating the night-time hemisphere and prompting concerns of light pollution disrupting animal behaviours. A project in 2013 installed mirrors above the Norwegian town of Rjukan which reflected the Sun’s rays onto the town square.
It is not clear whether the Chengdu plan has the backing of the Chinese government. It is also unclear exactly how intense the light is. Reports varying from a light eight times as strong as the Moon, to a fifth of the Moon’s light.