The city of Chengdu, in the center of China, plans to launch in 2020 a lighting satellite capable of producing a brightness eight times higher than that of the Moon that will serve to complement the street lamps and different lights installed in the streets.
The peculiar technological advance, developed by the Research Institute of Microelectronic Systems of Aerospace Science and Technology (CASC) of the Chinese city, will be able to regulate the range of light emitted, according to its president, Wu Chunfeng.
The tests with this type of satellites began years ago, but the technology has allowed maturing now its evolution, so it is estimated that they can be used in two years, according to Wu himself explained in a national R & D meeting in Chengdu, a city of more than 10 million inhabitants and rated as the fifth most populated city in the country.
It is still unknown whether the plan has the backing of the city or state authorities, despite the fact that CASC is the majority contractor of the Asian giant’s space program.
The scientist aims to put the first satellite into orbit in 2020. If its results are positive, three more could be launched into space in 2022. The device will be at a distance of about 500 kilometers from Earth, much closer than the 384,400 kilometers that separate our planet from its only natural satellite. “The first launch will be basically experimental, but the other three will have great potential in the civil and commercial field,” he said.
According to Wu, this does not mean that, when the mill is in orbit, it suddenly illuminates the entire night sky: “Its expected brightness, in the eyes of humans, will be about one-fifth of what the streetlights emit in the streets. ” According to his calculations, this alternative source of lighting would mean an energy saving for this city of about 1.2 billion yuan (170 million dollars, 150 million euros) if it is capable of covering 50 square kilometers of the surface.
The project could also provide light in areas affected by natural disasters or blackouts, which would help search and rescue at night. The brightness could be adjusted according to the circumstances and even turned off completely when necessary.
Wu cautioned, however, that in case the sky was cloudy, the amount of light that will be received will be much less. And away from the possibility of getting to see a sky with two moons: “When the satellite is in operation, people will see only one bright star, not a giant moon as many imagine.”
The idea of this artificial moon comes from a French artist who imagined the possibility of hanging a necklace made with mirrors on Earth. His intention was for that object to reflect the light of the sun in Paris throughout the year. There are precedents of similar projects, but on a smaller scale, in other parts of the world.
Rijukan is a small Norwegian village known as the “village of shadows”. At the end of 2013, it was decided to illuminate its streets with the rays of the sun by means of three mirrors placed on top of some nearby mountains. The function of the crystals is to reflect this light in the direction of the houses of the municipality, which lives for six months a year in complete darkness.
The artificial moon posed by the Chinese research institute has one drawback. It does not have the unanimous approval of the population. Some critical voices have shown their concern about the adverse effects that could have on the daily routine of some animals and astronomical observation, as they have collected several local newspapers. Other experts have said that the light originated by the artificial satellite is the same as that of a glow at dusk, so it should not affect.