First-Ever Artificial Meteor Shower: Japan Plans To Gift The World ‘Shooting Stars On Demand’

The first big celestial show is planned for 2020 and will light up the skies over Hiroshima in spectacular colors.

Yongyut KumsriShutterstock

Japanese start-up ALE Co. is gearing up to offer the world a “whole new level of entertainment,” according to its website. And this is no false claim, considering that what they’re about to attempt has never been done before.

The Tokyo-based company announced its plans to put on a truly unique show using the sky as a canvas. In fact, that’s what the project is called, “Sky Canvas.” And its objective is to deliver the world’s first artificial meteor shower, reports The Japan Times.

Run by Japanese entrepreneur Lena Okajima, ALE has been working for seven years to develop this technology, notes The Independent, and is now fine-tuning the entire process so that it can soon be able to offer the world “shooting stars on demand.”

The artificial meteor shower draws its inspiration from the real thing, notes the British media outlet, detailing that Okajima — who studied astronomy at the University of Tokyo — came up with the idea after watching the Leonids streak across the sky in her college years.

That spark of creativity eventually led her to build ALE so that millions of people around the world would be able to enjoy custom-made shooting stars that light up the sky whenever you want them and can even change color.

Here’s How The Tech Works

“Natural shooting stars occur when dust particles of several millimetres in size enter the Earth’s atmosphere and burn due to plasma emission,” ALE explains on its website.

The company has managed to reproduce this process artificially “by inventing shooting star particles and using specially designed microsatellites” to drop them from space into our planet’s atmosphere.

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These particles, made up from a proprietary blend of chemicals, are to be loaded up inside pellets that glow brightly when released into the atmosphere — bright enough to be seen even over the city lights.

The two tiny satellites, currently in the final stages of development, will be launched into Earth’s orbit carrying a payload of up to 400 pellets each, designed to look like shooting stars as they dive across the sky.

Once the satellites stabilize in orbit, they can deploy the pellets at any time, in any direction on the globe and at any desired speed. The satellites can be used independently or operated in tandem to put on an extraordinary light show. And, as an added bonus, the artificial meteor showers can change color by a simple tweak of the chemical formula inside them.

The promotional video below explains the entire process, showcasing what an artificial meteor shower would look like over over Singapore and Mount Fuji.

The synthetic stars are expected to glow for several seconds — which is longer than a usual meteor shower, Interesting Engineering points out — after which the pellets will burn up completely so as not to release falling debris on the ground and pose a threat to sky watchers below.

First Show In 2020

The microsatellites have a lifespan of up to two years and their 400-pellet payloads should be enough to put on 20 to 30 events each, shows ALE.

The first satellite is set to go up in orbit next March, atop a rocket flown by the Japanese space agency, JAXA. The second tiny spacecraft will follow its twin sometime in the mid-2019 and is slated to launch on a private sector rocket.

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ALE plans to have both satellites in orbit by February 2020 and kick off the festivities with an inaugural meteor shower over Hiroshima in the spring.

The artificial shooting stars should have a range of 124 miles (200 kilometers) and be visible to millions of people.

After that, the sky is the limit, says Okajima.

“We are targeting the whole world, as our stockpile of shooting stars will be in space and can be delivered across the world,” she told the media last week.

While the company hasn’t disclosed how much a private meteor shower show would cost, the sources note that ALE will be putting up $20 million to finance the entire project, satellite launched included.