Chinese City Wants to Launch Fake Moon to Illuminate Its Streets

Hand holding up light-up moon

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City officials recently announced plans to build an artificial moon, launching it to hang over Sichuan province's capital city by 2020, Chinese news site People's Daily Online (PDO) reported.

According to local reports picked up by the Asia Times, the city has been evaluating the technology behind an artificial moon for years and has tested it enough to feel it's ready for launch.

By reflecting light from the sun, the satellites could replace street lamps in urban areas, saving an estimated 1.2 billion yuan (US$170 million) a year in electricity costs for Chengdu, if the man-made moons illuminate an area of 50 square kilometers.

The artificial moon will reportedly be able to light an area within a diameter of 10 to 80 kilometres while the precise illumination range can be controlled within a few dozen meters. But little is known about the height, size and true brightness of the proposed artificial moon - all of which are factors that could affect its visibility to distant observers.

Chengdu's artificial moon has already been met with criticism from skeptics and concerned citizens who argue that the light will have adverse effects on animals and astronomical observation, People's Daily points out.

Though the first launch will be experimental, the 2022 satellites "will be the real deal with great civic and commercial potential", he said in an interview with China Daily.

The launch follows a similar project in 1999 when Russian researchers planned to use orbiting mirrors to light up cities in Siberia, hoping it would be a cheaper alternative to electric lighting. The city also believes that tourists would be more likely to visit and see how the moon works during the night, according to the report.

Some expressed concerns about light pollution and potentially negative impact on animals. The artist imagined a mirrored necklace around the Earth to reflect sunlight onto Paris year-round.

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