Chinese city to launch artificial moon in hopes of replacing street lights

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If Chengdu can get approval for the artificial moon and actually launch it in space in the next couple of years, the city is hopeful it'll help it save money on illuminating its streets.

The artificial moon will have a reflective coating that can deflect sunlight back to Earth, similar to how the moon shines, he said.

Wu Chunfeng, chairman of Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute, made the announcement at a recent conference and said the new moon could replace some street lights. 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. "By then, the three huge mirrors will divide the 360-degree orbital plane, realising illuminating an area for 24 hours continuously", Wu said.

The planned "illumination satellite" would be sent up into space to "complement the moon at night" by shining eight times as bright, reports the People's Daily.

The moon orbits the Earth about 380,000 km from the Earth, while the man-made moon is expected to be put on an orbit within 500 km from the Earth, the state-run China Daily reported.

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If successful, the man-made "moon" could replace streetlights.

And the "dusk-like glow" that the fake moon would create would also be something of a tourist attraction for the area, according to the developers. According to ABC, the moon could save approximately 1.2 billion yuan ($240 million) in electricity costs every year. "It can also illuminate blackout areas when natural disasters such as quake happen".

However, Wu stressed that much work still needs to be done, both in terms of scientific feasibility and business models, to tap into the full potential of China's artificial moons.

In the 1990s, Russian Federation carried out an experiment called Banner, testing the idea of using a mirror to reflect the sun light to Earth.