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China could launch artificial moon by 2020, state media says

By Elizabeth Shim
China could launch artificial moon by 2020, state media says
Chinese scientists are working to launch an illumination satellite that could emit artificial moonlight. File Photo by NOAA/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 18 (UPI) -- A Chinese scientist is promising the moon with an illumination satellite that would emit brighter light by 2020.

People's Daily reported Thursday Wu Chunfeng of the Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute Co. revealed the plans for the artificial moon last week at a gathering on innovation and entrepreneurship in Chengdu, Szechuan Province.

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"We have been developing technology for an artificial moon for many years," Wu said. "We have secured enough technology to launch an artificial moon by 2020."

The satellite would "complement the moon at night" and emit a "dusk-like glow" over an area with a diameter of between six and 50 miles.

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The satellite would include a circular plate made of material that can reflect light like a mirror, according to Wu.

While precise details are not available, the illumination satellite is to be placed in geostationary orbit about 22,000 miles above the Earth.

A satellite placed in a circular geosynchronous orbit will appear fixed in the sky to observers on the ground, because it follows the direction of Earth's rotation.

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Wu said the artificial moonlight would appear about eight times brighter than a natural full moon.

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Scientists in Norway have previously tried to create artificial light over remote areas of the country.

Three gigantic computer-controlled mirrors were placed above the Norwegian town of Rjukan in 2013 to track the sun's movement and reflect rays onto the town square, according to The Guardian.

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In the '90s, Russian scientists briefly lit up the night sky with a launched satellite that could deflect sunlight back to Earth.

The artificial moon, if launched in China, is raising concerns of its impact on nocturnal wildlife.

But Kang Weimin, director of the Institute of Optics at Harbin Institute of Technology, said the "light of the satellite is similar to a dusk-like glow, so it should not affect animals' routines."

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