China plans to launch a second 'moon' into the sky to save money on streetlights
At 1/400,000th the brightness of the sun, the Moon really isn't powerful enough to help us navigate the night time. Chinese scientists and engineers, however, have reportedly found a solution to this dilemma.
Last week, the chairman of Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute, Wu Chunfeng, announced plans to launch an "artificial moon" to provide nighttime light to the city of Chengdu.
According to Wu, the "illumination satellite" will be eight times as bright as the actual moon, but he emphasised that it was only designed to "complement the moon at night".
On Earth - the satellite, whose launch is scheduled for 2020 - would appear as a "dusk-like glow" that can light an area, with a diameter close to 50 miles.
The project is, above all, a money-saving venture. As Chinese news outlets have reported, Wu said that the second "moon" would replace traditional energy sources, causing a reduction in energy consumption and eventually contributing an output value of 20 billion yuan to the economy within five years of its launch.
Some reporters, however, raised concerns that the artificial light would disturb astronomical observations. Kang Weimin, the director of the Institute of Optics at the Harbin Institute of Technology, duly replied that the artificial moonlight would be the equivalent to a bright evening, and would not be enough to cause any harm to biological systems.
As of yet, it's not clear whether the project would be funded by the city or by the Chinese government. But per The Guardian, the Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute is the main contractor for the Chinese space program, which has come leaps and bounds since 2015.
Additionally, the nation as a whole plans to double the number of launches conducted last year in coming years.
While this sounds like something out of a science fiction novel, something similar has been attempted before.
Back in 1993, Russia launched an illumination mechanism - which they dubbed a "space mirror" - in an effort to increase the length of the daytime. It used a giant sheet of plastic which was attached to a spacecraft to reflect sunlight back to Earth, and for a moment, the device did shine a beam of light down to Russia.
However, for the majority of people of the planet, it just looked like a bright star.