Japan-based Astro Live Experiences or ALE aspires to launch its service for made-to-order shooting stars by summer of 2019. In essence, anyone can demand his or her own meteor showers at his or her chosen date and place.
The service called Sky Canvas will be available for anyone or any entity that can afford to request for the customized celestial event. However, the company has yet to release the specifics on its pricing. The company is targeting to showcase what could be the world’s first on-demand meteor showers in Hiroshima next year.
What do customized meteor showers mean for space enthusiasts?
Meteor showers naturally happen annually whenever the Earth passes through the dust left by a comet. According to NASA, there are approximately 30 meteor showers that are visible each year given that the weather is permitting. The space agency has actually listed down eight meteor showers and their exact date and the time of peaking in the night sky each year. Usually, space enthusiasts will wait for the said time and date to witness the celestial events.
Sky Canvas, on the other hand, will entirely revoke the element of waiting by creating artificial shooting stars projected miles away from Earth. Here’s how it will happen:
1. ALE will launch a satellite containing particles which will later become the shooting stars.
2. This satellite will be consist of microsatellites that will carry 300 to 400 shooting star particles and will last for up to 27 months in orbit before burning up in the atmosphere.
3. Once the satellite has settled into a stable orbit around the earth, ALE will release the shooting star particles from the micro-satellite.
4. The particles will travel approximately one-third of the way around the Earth before burning like a shooting star upon atmospheric re-entry.
5. The first scheduled launch of the microsatellite is in December of 2018.
6. When all goes to plan, artificial shooting stars will be available on-demand at 8:00 p.m., 8:30 p.m., and 9:00 p.m. any day of the year.
7. The reproduced shooting stars can burn up 60-80 kilometers above the Earth, making it visible to people in an area of up to 200 kilometers in diameter.
On the flip side, Sky Canvas will also undermine the remarkable history of meteor showers. According to NASA, some of the major showers that are visible to Earth have actually been around longer than 100 years.
For example, the famous Perseid meteor showers were first seen about 2000 years ago and were recorded in the Chinese annals. Every Perseid meteor is a tiny piece of the comet Swift-Tuttle, which swings by the Sun every 135 years.
What do meteor showers mean for the space industry as a whole?
Humans have been launching objects into space for more than 50 years, NASA states. These objects are leaving “space junks” that are dangerous to spacecraft, particularly to the International Space Station. One way to reduce space junks is to keep them floating in low-earth orbit.
ALE is planning to keep their satellites in low-earth orbit and experts are now worried that the company can rapidly overload this segment of space. They are also concern about ALE’s satellites colliding with other satellites that bear more scientific and practical importance.
“I salute them for cleverness and for their technical expertise, but from an orbital debris standpoint, it’s not a great idea. I’m concerned space will be getting crowded in low-earth orbit in the next 10 years,” University of Michigan astronomer Patrick Seitzer told BuzzFeed News.
Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Charles Phillips explained that satellites which serve a purpose to national security are usually flying in the low-earth orbit. Phillips noted that the National Reconnaissance Office reported that spy satellites can go as low as 158 miles altitude. “If the Sky Canvas satellite accidentally hit a [spy satellite] there might be some angry people. Of course, everyone wants to encourage innovation and commercial use of space, but this use requires extraordinary steps to keep other spacecraft from being impacted — literally,” Phillips also told BuzzFeed News.
Josh Rodenbaugh, a member of ALE’s satellite operations team, explained that the company has gotten the approval of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, has consulted with NASA and the European Space Agency, and the US Defense Department. ALE also plans on implementing a protocol which involves checking three times with the US Strategic Command’s satellite before launching its artificial shooting stars. In any event that its shootings stars came within 124 miles of a satellite, ALE will cancel its event.
While first impressions about the Sky Canvas were mostly negative, ALE is affirmative that the data collected via the Sky Canvas will be useful for predicting the path of satellites and artificial objects as they re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere.
“This has potential applications in the safe disposal of space debris,” the company says on its website. In fact, the company’s ultimate goal is to promote Science through providing entertainment to people.