Japan launches satellite to create artificial meteor shower

JAXA's Epsilon-4 rocket carries satellite developed by Astro Live Experiences that will deliver display above Hiroshima

Anthony Cuthbertson
Friday 18 January 2019 16:45 GMT
The Sky Canvas project aims to produce an artificial meteor shower above Hiroshima in 2020
The Sky Canvas project aims to produce an artificial meteor shower above Hiroshima in 2020

Japan‘s space agency has launched a rocket carrying a satellite capable of delivering an artificial meteor shower into the Earth’s atmosphere.

The Epsilon-4 rocket lifted off from the JAXA Uchinoura Space Center, carrying the first of two micro-satellites built by Tokyo-based startup Astro Live Experiences (ALE).

The aim is to release tiny balls from the micro-satellites in the hope of mimicking shooting stars in the night sky above Hiroshima in 2020.

ALE’s website promises “a whole new level of entertainment” through its Sky Canvas project, with future celestial light shows if the Hiroshima display proves successful.

“Sky Canvas, the world’s first artificial shooting star project, aims to bring people from allover the world together to witness an unprecedented, collective experience,” the site states.

“Using space as our stage, we will constantly strive to bring to life new levels of entertainment. We will use our technical expertise and know-how to contribute to the development of science.”

It works by releasing the balls into the Earth’s atmosphere to prompt a process known as plasma emission that simulates a meteor shower for people on the ground up to 200km away.

Once they have lit up the sky, the balls burn up completely to not pose a risk to people on the ground.

An exact date for the display is yet to be announced, with a second micro-satellite set to launch later this year.

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Beyond the micro satellites, ALE hopes to eventually propel disused satellites into the atmosphere for even brighter displays.

ALE chief executive Lena Okajima told a news conference last year: ”We are targeting the whole world, as our stockpile of shooting stars will be in space and can be delivered across the world.”

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