A rocket carrying a satellite on a mission to deliver the world’s first artificial meteor shower yesterday blasted into space, Japanese scientists said.
A start-up based in Tokyo developed the microsatellite for the celestial show over Hiroshima, Japan, early next year as the initial experiment for what it calls a “shooting stars on demand” service.
The satellite is to release tiny balls that glow brightly as they hurtle through the atmosphere, simulating a meteor shower.
Photo: AFP / Jiji Press
It hitched a ride on the small Epsilon 4 rocket that was launched from the Uchinoura Space Center by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) yesterday morning.
The rocket carried a total of seven ultra-small satellites that are to demonstrate various “innovative” technologies, agency spokesman Nobuyoshi Fujimoto told reporters.
By early afternoon, the agency confirmed that all seven satellites had successfully been launched into orbit.
“I was too moved for words,” Lena Okajima, president of the company behind the artificial meteor showers, told Jiji Press. “I feel like now the hard work is ahead.”
The company, ALE Co, plans to deliver its first out-of-this-world show over Hiroshima in the spring of next year.
The satellite carries 400 tiny balls whose chemical formula is a closely guarded secret.
That should be enough for 20 to 30 events, as one shower would involve up to 20 stars, the company said.
ALE’s satellite, released 500km above the Earth, is to gradually descend to 400km over the coming year as it orbits the planet.
The company plans to launch a second satellite on a private-sector rocket in the middle of this year.
ALE said that it is targeting the “whole world” with its products and plans to build a stockpile of shooting stars in orbiting satellites that could be delivered across the world.
When its two satellites are in orbit, they can be used separately or in tandem and would be programmed to eject the balls at the right location, speed and direction to put on a show for viewers on the ground.
Tinkering with the ingredients in the balls should mean that it is possible to change the colors they glow, offering the possibility of a multicolored flotilla of shooting stars.
Each star is expected to shine for several seconds before being completely burned up — well before they fall low enough to pose any danger to anything on Earth.
They would glow brightly enough to be seen even over the light-polluted metropolis of Tokyo, ALE said.
If all goes well, and the skies are clear, next year’s event could be visible to millions of people, it added.
Okajima has said that her company chose Hiroshima for its first display because of its good weather, landscape and cultural assets.
The western Japanese city rose from the ashes after a 1945 US atomic bombing and faces the Seto Inland Sea, home of the Itsukushima Shrine’s floating gate.
ALE has been collaborating with scientists and engineers at Japanese universities, as well as local government officials and corporate sponsors.
It has not disclosed the price for an artificial meteor shower.
‘LIKE A CASSANDRA’: Chinese residents of Prato went into self-imposed lockdown and warned their Italian neighbors about what was coming, but were ignored In the storm of infection and death sweeping Italy, one big community stands out to health officials as remarkably unscathed — the 50,000 ethnic Chinese who live in the town of Prato. Two months ago, the country’s Chinese residents were the target of what Amnesty International described as shameful discrimination, the butt of insults and violent attacks by people who feared that they would spread the coronavirus through Italy. However, in the Tuscan town of Prato, home to Italy’s single biggest Chinese community, the opposite has been true. Once scapegoats, they are now held up by authorities as a model for early,
Reporters Without Borders has accused the Algerian government of taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to “settle scores” with independent journalists, including those covering long-running anti-government protests. In a statement signed with Algerian non-governmental organizations, the watchdog on Thursday called for the immediate release of its correspondent, Khaled Drareni, who has been in pretrial detention since Sunday after being charged with inciting an unarmed gathering and endangering national unity. Drareni has been arrested several times for covering the “Hirak” anti-government protests held in the capital, Algiers, every Friday since February last year. Imprisoning people during a pandemic is “an act of physical endangerment,”
Vietnam has lodged an official protest with China following the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat that it said had been rammed by a Chinese maritime surveillance vessel near islands in the South China Sea. The Vietnamese fishing vessel, with eight fishermen onboard, was fishing near the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) on Thursday when it was rammed and sunk by the Chinese vessel, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement posted on a government Web site yesterday. All of the fishermen were picked up by the Chinese vessel alive and were transferred to two other Vietnamese fishing vessels
DIVIDED YOUTH: There is a belief that overseas students see themselves as superior, which is compounded by perceptions of their extreme wealth and multiple nationalities Chinese students flying home from overseas to escape the COVID-19 pandemic face a frosty reception from sections of the public who view them as wealthy, spoiled — and potentially contaminated. The number of officially reported cases in China has dwindled dramatically over the last month, but the country is now taking drastic steps to try and stem a second wave of infections brought in from abroad. With most international flights canceled and nearly all foreigners barred from entering the country, the vast majority of returnees are Chinese nationals, including many students. The situation has exposed animosities over class and privilege in Chinese society,