By the Light of a Silvery Moon

The Chinese city of Chengdu has announced plans to replace street lighting with the ‘light of a silvery moon’¹ reflected down from a satellite with a large mirror.

According to People’s Daily Online, the Chairman of the Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute Co, Wu Chunfeng, announced the “artificial moon” at a national mass innovation and entrepreneurship event held in Chengdu on 10 October.

He revealed that work on the satellite design started years ago and that testing the launch system, orbit injection, the unfolding of the mirror (the Russians tried to do something similar in the early nineties² but the mirror failed to deploy), and the calibration and control of the man-made moon will be completed by 2020.

The satellite, at an altitude of around 500 km, will be able to reflect sunlight over an area of 10 – 80 km diameter, at an intensity around eight times the light of the (real) moon.

“Using a man-made moon to illuminate an area 50 sq km can save 1.2 billion yuan (£133 million) of electric charge,” Wu said. “It can also illuminate blackout areas when natural disasters such as earthquake happen.”

However Wu Chungfeng’s ambition is to put not just one, but three artificial moons into orbit in 2022. The three mirrors “will divide the 360-degree orbital plane, realizing illuminating an area for 24 hours continuously,” he said.

There are concerns that the natural cycles of wildlife and humans would be disrupted by artificial light at night and especially for 24-hour periods, but Wu Chunfeng says that the intensity can be controlled and people will only see a bright star in the sky.

¹ By the light of the silvery moon was a popular song published in 1909 and performed by many famous artists.

² The Banner Project



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