Shooting stars, meteors, and full-on meteor showers are wonders to behold. These celestial light shows occur when gas, dust, and space debris burn up in Earth’s atmosphere.
But they don’t happen as often as we might like, nor do they predictably occur exactly when and where we’d like them to.
So a startup called ALE, with scientific collaborators from Japanese universities, wants to manufacture shooting stars with a sky-high project called “Sky Canvas.”
You can kind of see how it would work in this promotional video they made:
ALE’s plan is to launch a satellite about 310 miles up, where it would release 500 to 1,000 pellets — each containing different elements to make them burn up in different colours.
Once the pellets fly one-third of the way around the Earth, they’d reenter the atmosphere about 40 miles up and ignite, becoming tiny shooting stars.
The company has tested the pellets in the lab, and reported they could be bright enough to see even under the glow of city lights.
“Our shooting stars are intended for large-scale events and we would like to aim for the Olympics,” Spokeswoman Rie Yamamoto told Tech Insider in an email. “However, our product is still in development and we have not formally talked to the Olympic committee so any articles claiming that we ‘will’ or that we have ‘already bid / proposed’ are technically false.”
But would this actually work?
Aerospace engineer and space debris expert Hugh Lewis, from the University of Southampton, told Tech Insider that creating an artificial meteor shower is possible.
Doing so at the altitude ALE is planning to, however, could be problematic.
“The issue is that low-Earth orbit is the most congested orbit. The International Space Station is up at that altitude,” he said. “It could work, but the challenge is to avoid the existing satellites that are there and all the debris as well.”
The company would likely have to get approval from the Japanese government in order to launch the satellite in the first place, Lewis said, so hopefully they could mitigate any negative effects on the space environment before then.
“If the process is in place and they have thought through all the issues and have a way to address them, then you get a great show,” he said. “The trick is to address all those issues and still accomplish what you want to do.”
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