With the Japanese Olympic Games only four years away, a Japanese company is working on lighting up the skies above Tokyo in a way never before witnessed. Star-Ale plans to create a man-made meteor shower as the main attraction of the opening ceremony in 2020. According to a report in The Christian Science Monitor, the company ALE.Co, Ltd., aims to marry atmospheric study and entertainment with its Sky Canvas Project.
Chief executive officer and founder of Star-ALE, Lena Okajima explained.
“This type of project is new in the sense in that it mixes astronomy and the entertainment business, these shooting stars that are born through science function as a high-profit entertainment business, and the resulting funds will serve to further advance fundamental scientific research.”
According to blastingnews, the meteor shower will be seen by around 30 million people, its effects visible for over 120 miles.
Shooting stars, as we know them, are basically meteoroids that are on a collision path with earth. As they enter our atmosphere, the friction makes them white hot before burning up. To mimic this effect, Star-Ale is launching a number of satellites in 2017, each with a payload of up to 1,000 specially developed pyrotechnic materials in the form of pellets called source particles, coated with different compositions to create a range of colors.
As they are released and hit the atmosphere, they will ignite, with each particle burning in a color determined by its coating, as it hurtles towards earth. The material will travel a third of the way around the earth and ignite 35 to 50 miles above the ground, in an explosion of vibrant color, appearing as a real meteor shower would, yet unlike anything previously witnessed in the night sky. The particles will be travelling at around five-miles-per-second, much slower than natural meteorites which can travel at speeds of up to 50-miles-per-second and will therefore present a longer display.
The material’s secret formula was tweaked and tested by scientists at Nihon University and according to professor Shinsuke Abe, will burn bright enough to overcome Tokyo’s significant light pollution. Star-ALE has even gone as far as to make provisions for poor weather. In the event of severe cloud cover, the man made meteor shower can be cancelled up to 90 minutes before the show begins, enabling organizers to reschedule.
During testing, the pellets were placed in a vacuum chamber and bombarded with supersonic gases to simulate how they would react when entering the atmosphere. They have been formulated to burn completely, leaving no residue in the atmosphere. In addition, safety measures will be in place to ensure no collisions occur with other objects in space.
— MDC Vacuum Products (@MDCVacuum) May 20, 2016
The project is by no means cheap, with each pellet costing in the region of $8,000, not to mention the vast expense of producing and launching the satellites. Japanese astronomy is highly-funded by the government, and Ms. Okajima is hoping this project will result in further developments in the field.
“By pouring large amounts of public funds into the creation of enormous equipment, we can aim to fly further into space, and conduct more accurate experiments and observations,” she said.
Tokyo Metropolitan University associate aerospace professor Hironori Sahara said that the project may offer valuable insight into environmental change and meteor composition and become a model for the unification of entertainment and experimentation in Japanese research.
Star-ALE hopes to begin open air testing on the capabilities of the satellites by the end of 2017, and is confident they will be ready to create their man-made meteor showers in time for Tokyo, 2020.
[Image via Shutterstock]