A Chinese city plans to replace street lights with its own moon

Muriel Hammond
October 19, 2018

The Southwestern city of Chengdu revealed it would launch its illumination satellite in 2020, which it said was created to emulate moonlight and would be eight times brighter than the real moon.

The spacecraft will be roughly eight times brighter than the Moon, according to the Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute, and should provide enough light that it will actually make street lights totally irrelevant for at least part of the city. The Norwegian town of Rjukan installed three large computer-controlled mirrors to track and reflect sunlight in 2013; in the 1990s, Russian astronomers succeeded in launching a satellite into space to deflect sunlight back to Earth, but a second attempt in 1999 failed.

By reflecting light from the sun, the satellites could replace street lamps in urban areas, saving an estimated 1.2 billion yuan (US$170 million) a year in electricity costs for Chengdu, if the man-made moons illuminate an area of 50 square kilometers.

This is not the first reflective satellite that has been planned.


Concerns were expressed that having no proper night might affect animal life around the city, however, Kang Weimin, director of the Institute of Optics in the School of Aerospace at Harbin Institute of Technology in China, said the light levels shouldn't be enough to change the behavior of fauna. He said preliminary testing is now complete, and the satellite should be ready for launch by 2020, according to state media this week.

Chengdu's artificial moon project was announced by Wu at an innovation and entrepreneurship conference in Chengdu on Oct 10.

Moonlit skies over the Chinese city of Chengdu may soon get a boost from a second moon. The real moon, of course, can usually be seen from anywhere on Earth. The mirror failed to unfold in space and the experiment was halted. And, by 2020, it may even become reality.

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