China to launch 'moon' to light up city at night

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The idea of an extra moon, which is said to be able to produce enough light to illuminate an area between 10 and 80km (six to 50 miles) in Chengdu, is fraught with real environmental threats.

This info all comes via Wu Chunfeng, the chairman of Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute Co., who spoke last week at an innovation and entrepreneurship conference in Chengdu.

Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan province, has proposed a plan to launch an artificial moon, or illumination satellite, into space, Asia Times is reporting. Testing of the satellite started years ago, Wu said, although the technology will soon be ready for its launch in 2020.

The man-made moon will have a coating that can reflect light from the sun with solar panel-like wings.

A Chinese city is exhausted of relying on electricity and the regular old moon to provide lights around town at night. The satellite could be picked up on a telescope, Fortune reports, if you don't want to make the trip to Chengdu.

For now, details on the proposed moon-including further satellite specifications, cost and launch date-remain scarce. But little is known about the height, size and true brightness of the proposed artificial moon - all of which are factors that could affect its visibility to distant observers.

The moon orbits the Earth about 380,000 km from the Earth, while the man-made moon is expected to be put on an orbit within 500 km from the Earth, the state-run China Daily reported.

The moon will orbit the city at a height of 500 kilometers, and will be one of three artificial moons sent into space over the next four years. Russian scientists tried it in 1993; a second go in 1999 prompted "preemptive concerns about light pollution disrupting nocturnal animals and astronomical observation", The Guardian reports.

In 1999, a Russian experiment to deploy a large mirror in space created to function like an artificial moon was unsuccessful after it failed to unfold properly.

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