If the Moon’s light isn’t bright enough for you, just get another one. Seems simple enough. That’s exactly what a Chinese city is planning on doing within the next couple of years – they want to launch a massive fake moon to light up the city’s streets at night.
Apparently, the city of Chengdu is hoping to unveil its artificial moon by 2020. Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan province in southwestern China and is home to over 14 million people.
The idea is that the moon's light will be bright enough to replace streetlamps, illuminating an area with a diameter of 10 to 80 kilometers (6-50 miles). The moon’s light will be adjustable within the range of a few dozen meters.
The plans were revealed on October 10 by Wu Chunfeng, chairman of the catchily named Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute Co., Ltd (or "Casc" for short). This company is the main contractor for China’s space program.
Although many details about both the moon and whether it will actually launch are still unclear, Chunfeng said that it should appear in the sky by 2020, and that tests on the tech have been going on for years.
The moon is apparently inspired by the ideas of a French artist, “who imagined hanging a necklace made of mirrors above the Earth, which could reflect sunshine through the streets of Paris all year round,” according to Chinese newspaper the People’s Daily.
So, how would it work? The moon would be a satellite with a special coating that would reflect the light of the Sun onto Chengdu during the night. This would apparently be bright enough to replace streetlamps. The scheme is similar to Russia's plan to provide a cheaper alternative to electric lighting by launching orbiting mirrors over Siberia in the 1990s. Known as Znamya, the project was abandoned due to a failed deployment of one of the mirrors.
Some people are concerned about the potential negative impacts that the new moon could have on both wildlife and the city’s human residents. Bright light at night might affect people’s sleep-wake cycles, or confuse both nocturnal and day-dwelling animals, altering their behavior. However, according to Kang Weimin of the Harbin Institute of Technology, the moon’s light would simply complement that of the real Moon, creating nothing more than a “dusk-like glow”. Whether this is true remains to be seen, as the new moon would apparently produce eight times as much light as the actual Moon.
The hope is that in addition to providing lighting, the creation will also draw more tourists to the city. However, few details have actually been released, so we'll have to wait to see whether Chengdu's moon actually makes it into the sky.