The Chinese government is planning to launch a "fake moon" into space in two years, and it could save that country hundreds of millions of dollars in annual electricity costs.
Chengdu, a city in the country's southwestern Sichuan province, is now working on developing artificial "illumination satellites", which will go up there and shine eight times more brightly than the moon, informed China Daily.
If the launch from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan succeeds, three more such objects are planned for launch in 2022, Wu Chunfeng, head of Tian Fu New Area Science Society in Chengdu, told "China Daily" Thursday.
This "moon" will actually be a satellite - an "illumination satellite", featuring reflective panels that could make it eight times as bright as the real moon.
It's said that the man-made moons will illuminate an area of 50 square kilometers, and work by reflecting light from the sun in a bid to replace the need for street lamps in urban areas. John Barentine, director of the International Dark-Sky Association, a US nonprofit research organization on light pollution, calculated that the luminescence of an artificial satellite equivalent to eight times the moon would be similar to the intensity of light in a very dense urban area.
"When the satellite is in operation, people will see only a bright star above, and not a giant moon as imagined", said Wu. Extra light can be used in disaster zones during black out, aiding relief and rescue missions.
The artificial moon will have a coating that can reflect sunlight back to Earth, similar to the way the real moon shines, he said. Together they can illuminate an area of around 3,600 to 6,400 sq km (1,390 to 2,470 sq miles) on Earth for 24 hours.
In 1999, Russian Federation tried the same thing, launching its own "artificial moon" satellite from the Mir space station.
If the satellite is a success, China plans to launch three more in 2022 that could cover even more area.
Critics warn of adverse physiological consequences for people and animals; the absence of regular alternations between night and day could disrupt metabolic patterns, including sleep.
The satellite was created to complement the moon, with the objective of helping with nighttime illumination in the area. On this regard, Wu notes that the tests will only be done in uninhabited deserts where it will not interfere with any people.
The project has already being developed by the Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute Corporation and the institute have claimed that the plan is already "mature in technology".
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