China plans to replace streetlights with ‘artificial moon’ by 2020

Sir Richard Branson

A Chinese city has plans to build what it is describing as an "artificial moon" and bright enough to possibly replace the need for street lights.

The satellite would use a reflective coating to direct light to illuminate an area on earth of up to 50 square miles (130sq km), according to Wu Chunfeng, chairman of the city's Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute.

Video A Chinese businessman has announced plans to light Chengdu at night by launching an artificial "moon" to direct the out-of-sight Sun's rays down onto the city's streets.

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Apparently, testing has already started on the satellite and the plan is to launch it sometime in 2020.

It will complement the moon to make Chengu's night skies brighter when it launches in 2020, potentially serving as a replacement to conventional streetlights.

Based on a report from the People's Daily in China, inspiration came from an unnamed French artist who wanted to hang a necklace made of mirrors up above Earth to reflect sunshine on Paris at night. Officials on the ground can control the diameter of the light to ensure it focuses precisely on the city and nowhere else, according to the report.

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Some expressed concerns about light pollution and potentially negative impact on animals.

The moon will orbit the city at a height of 500 kilometers, and will be one of three artificial moons sent into space over the next four years. The Telegraph's Joseph Archer reports that Russian scientists launched a mirror-equipped spacecraft created to brighten Siberia's sun-deprived streets back in 1999. Still, the underlying concept embraced by the experiment - which The New York Times described at the time as a test of "the feasibility of illuminating points on Earth with light equivalent to that of several full moons" - remains an enticing prospect.

In the 1990s, Russian Federation carried out an experiment called Banner, testing the idea of using a mirror to reflect the sunlight to Earth.

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