China May Soon Have a Second (Artificial) Moon

Gwen Vasquez
October 19, 2018

Officials in China are planning to launch a man-made moon to rest in the sky above the south-western city of Chengdu.

The illumination on the ground would be about eight times what you would expect from the actual Moon, Chunfeng says.

As China's space programme races to catch up with that of the United States and Russian Federation, a number of ambitious projects are in the pipeline, including the Chang'e-4 lunar probe - named after the moon goddess in Chinese mythology - which aims to launch later this year.

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. Citing the imagined French necklace of mirrors as the impetus for the project, Chunfeng explained that the technology behind the satellite has been in the testing phase for years but is finally near completion.

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The location and brightness of the light beam can be changed, and its coverage accuracy can fall within a few dozen metres, he said.

Some experts who support the plan suggest that it'll produce little more than a "twilight glow" that shouldn't change how animals behave, but nobody will know for certain until the satellite is up and running.

Asia Times reports that the satellite would have a "highly reflective coating to reflect light from the sun with solar panel-like wings whose angles can be adjusted". However, an expert told the People's Daily that the artificial moon's light shouldn't be so bright that it would impact them.

There's also been some very real concern that the mirror's never-ending glow could seriously impact natural cycles of animals. As Fortune's Don Reisinger notes, Chengdu officials hope the project will generate a financial windfall, allowing the city to cut electricity costs and attract tourists. The scheme used a device known as the Znamya 2, which was equipped with a 25-meter mirror to illuminate a three-mile radius of land.

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