Japan is witnessing the world's first artificial meteor shower in spring 2020, thanks to technology being developed by private space company Astro Live Experience or ALE.
The spectacular display will be seen over a 200-kilometer area on the sky of the Setouchi Region, which covers the cities of Hiroshima, Iwakuni, Takamatsu, and Matsuyama.
A microsatellite located some 350 kilometers above ground is releasing the 15 to 20 multicolored pellets measuring half an inch wide. These orange, blue, and green shooting stars will burn for four to five seconds, resembling the length of real meteors.
At present, ALE is building two of these 150-pound satellites with the first scheduled to launch by December 2018. Each is valued at $3 million, with the capacity to carry up to 400 artificial meteors and enough propellant to stay in low-earth orbit for 27 months.
In the long term, the startup hopes to send three sets of six-satellite constellations into orbit. They will deliver artificial meteor showers anywhere on Earth at 8 p.m., 8:30 p.m., and 9 p.m. on during a dark evening. It all depends on the preference of the paying customer.
This endeavor is called as the Shooting Star Challenge or the Sky Canvas Project, with Family Mart and Japan Airlines serving as ALE's partners.
Paid Meteor Showers On Any Sky In The World
According to Josh Rodenbaugh of the startup's satellite operations team, ALE wants to provide these meteor showers at a price that's more affordable than Tokyo's fireworks displays.
Each show costs an average of $40,000, and though he won't cite a specific amount, Rodenbaugh says the company is offering its services at a lower price.
So far, their target market includes cities, large companies, amusement parks, and, of course, the elite who can pay for such an extravagant display.
However, some people in the aerospace industry are a bit worried about the realization of this ambitious venture.
For instance, University of Michigan astronomer Patrick Seitzers is concerned that artificial meteor showers are a bad idea from "an orbital degree standpoint" as it can contribute to overcrowding in the low-earth orbit in the next decade.
Artificial Meteor Showers Approved To Be Safe
Base on the U.S. Strategic Command's satellite trajectory catalog, there are only 40 other satellites that travel below the altitude of 350 kilometers.
If the meteor shower is going to come within 200 kilometers of just one satellite, the event in 2020 will be canceled.
"We ran a simulation of releasing particles every hour for a year against the catalog and didn't find any times we came close," assures Rodenbaugh in a report.
However, conditions are expected to change in the coming years, as SpaceX is planning to release 7,500 broadband internet satellites in orbits lower than 350 kilometers, just somewhere under ALE's microsatellites for artificial meteor showers.