Shooting stars, once a relative rarity, might soon become a nightly occurrence. Thanks to a new initiative from Japanese start up ALE, if you’ve ever spent hours staring at the night sky waiting for that signature streak of light to grant your wish, you probably won’t have to wait too much longer.
Called ‘Project SkyCanvas’, the team’s goal is to fill the sky with man-made meteorites as soon as 2018, with a full presentation planned for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The dream started with ALE founder Lena Okajima, who as a child growing up in Japan’s Tottori prefecture would frequently see shooting stars cross the night sky.
It was 2001. I went to a mountain to watch the shooting stars with my classmate. It was very nice — wonderful — these shooting stars. At first I thought, ‘this is easy’, because I just put a small ball in the atmosphere. But step by step I found it is difficult. Difficult, but it is challenging — not impossible.
Normal meteorites create their luminous tails of light when bits of dust and debris burn up upon entering the atmosphere. The faster the object is moving, the brighter the shooting star will be.
SkyCanvas will operate in much the same way, but at a vastly slower pace, allowing audiences below to enjoy the spectacle for longer. According to a feature by CNN, the pellets ejected by ALE will travel at a mere 8km per second — a snail’s pace compared to the usual 72km of natural meteorites.
After five years of research, ALE are close to finalising the exact composition of the different pellets — the recipe is top secret — that will allow them to control the brightness, and even the colour, of the shooting stars.
Once prepared, a cube shaped satellite is loaded with 500 to 1,000 of these pellets (called ‘source particles’) and launched 500km into the sky.
Once in the correct position, the unit will begin firing the 2cm diameter source particles at targeted points in the atmosphere, creating a light show in space visible within a 200km range. in the greater Tokyo area, that means an audience of up to 30,000,000 people.