Last year, the Inquisitr reported on an original initiative to create the world’s first artificial meteor shower. The project is called “Sky Canvas,” and was put together by Japanese start-up ALE Co. with the goal of offering the world shooting stars “on demand” via tiny satellites flung into low-Earth orbit.
The project has now officially kicked-off, Phys.org is reporting, after the first Sky Canvas satellite was shipped into orbit yesterday evening.
“I was too moved for words,” ALE Co. CEO Lena Okajima told reporters in an interview with the Japanese Jiji Press news agency. “I feel like now the hard work is ahead.”
According to Space, the mini-satellite soared through the sky at 7:50 p.m. ET on January 17, riding atop small-size Epsilon-4 rocket along with six other satellites — all aimed at demonstrating “innovative” technologies.
The rocket launched from Japan’s Uchinoura Space Center and later deployed the satellites — Sky Canvas included — less than an hour after liftoff, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced on its website.
The ALE Co. microsatellite is packed with 400 tiny pellets, each one-third of an inch wide and filled with a proprietary blend of chemicals that emulate meteor particles. These pellets will later be dropped down from space by the satellite toward Earth, glowing brightly as they fall through the sky — just like natural meteors burning up in the atmosphere.
Following yesterday’s launch, the “Sky Canvas” satellite was released some 310 miles above the planet. The spacecraft will continue to orbit Earth all throughout 2019 and gradually descend to about 250 miles. The satellite will eventually rain down man-made shooting stars next year.
The world’s first artificial meteor shower is expected to bloom in the night sometime in the spring of 2020 and will light up the sky over of Hiroshima and the Seto Inland Sea. The light show should be visible over an area of 124 miles and will reach up to 6 million sky watchers.
As CNET points out, this first launch is designed to test the concept and gather data that will help develop and refine the product. The 400 pellets contained within the satellite are enough to put on 20 to 30 celestial shows, each one generating up to 20 shooting stars — or about as much as an average natural meteor shower.
The artificial meteor particles are made from non-toxic materials and are designed to blow up in a bright explosion of colors as they heat up during reentry into the atmosphere and safely disintegrate 37 miles above our heads. Unlike natural meteor particles, these ones take longer to travel through the sky and give off a longer-lasting glow, which ensures that people will catch the show even over cities with heavy light pollution, such as Tokyo.
A second satellite will take to space in mid-2019 and join its sibling in orbit, thereby allowing ALE Co. the possibility of using the two spacecraft in tandem to create even more dazzling spectacles.
“I hope that our man-made meteors will help reveal new discoveries in science, and that it will gather and entertain people under the night sky,” Okajima said in a statement.
While ALE Co. is definitely excited by the progress of the Sky Canvas project, not everyone is as enthused with the idea of an artificial meteor shower — which Gizmodo has dubbed “the atmospheric spectacles no one asked for.” The media outlet argues that natural meteor showers are perfectly capable of offering the kind of out-of-this-world entertainment that the Sky Canvas project strives to provide.
As the Inquisitr previously reported, Okajima had the idea to gift the world its first artificial meteor shower after being inspired by the Leonids, which grace the skies every November. Meanwhile, the next natural meteor shower to look out for are the Lyrids, which this year peak on April 23.