Olympic opening ceremonies are known for spectacle. Yet few countries, if any, have entertained the masses from space. Japanese ALE Company hopes to make history for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo by creating SkyCanvas, a “man-made meteor shower.” So is this idea wildly cool or wildly crazy?
SkyCanvas works via satellites, which are filled with pellets made of different elements such as lithium, copper, or calcium to create different colors as they burn upon re-entry into the atmosphere. ALE says their artificial falling stars last longer than the shooting stars we experience in nature, and they burn brightly at “an apparent magnitude of -1,” according to the company’s lab tests. For comparison, the apparent magnitude of the brightest star in the sky, Sirius, is -1.46.
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The magnanimous display of artificial shooting stars won’t be restricted to those present in the Olympic stadium. They could be seen for 120 miles over Japan, which means some 30,000,000 people could potentially experience the meteor shower.
Entertainment on such a vast scale is costly. According to Gizmodo, each pellet in the satellites, which can hold 500 to 1,000 pellets, would cost over $8,000. That doesn’t take into account launching or building the satellites. ALE reports that they aim to launch their first satellite in 2017, and the following year would provide their service for anyone who wants – and can pay for – such a grand display. From then on, they’d launch a satellite each year.
What will happen to all these satellites? ALE is clear they don’t want to litter space, so the satellites themselves would re-enter the atmosphere after around 25 years, becoming “a very large shooting star.” In addition to manufacturing meteor showers, the company aspires to advance physics, collect data, and even explore the origins of life.
Images via screenshot