Does a wish made on a shooting star come true even if it's an artificial shooting star? Soon you may be able to test out the notion, if a certain Japanese startup has its way. The company, called ALE, is planning to launch a micro satellite that can eject tiny balls into Earth's atmosphere that will generate shooting stars on demand, reports Phys.org.
Officials with the company believe they will be able to control the release of the artificial meteors to generate shooting stars at precise times and locations in the night sky. By tinkering with the chemical composition of these tiny balls, even the color and intensity of each streak can potentially be controlled.
"I'm thinking of streams of meteors that are rare in nature," explained Lena Okajima, the CEO of the company. "It is artificial but I want to make really beautiful ones that can impress viewers."
It's certainly an innovative idea, but one has to wonder if a sky polluted with artificial shooting stars might one day dilute the majesty of the real thing.
"People may eventually become tired of seeing shooting stars if they come alone. But they could be coupled with events on the ground," continued Okajima. "Making the sky a screen is this project's biggest attraction as entertainment. It's a space display."
But regardless of how you might feel about the aesthetics of man-made meteor showers, some scientists see an opportunity. Aside from generating an awesome celestial show, the artificial meteors could also teach us a lot more about Earth's atmosphere. For instance, the tiny balls will streak through an area of the atmosphere that is too low for satellites but too high for balloons. So they will give researchers access to a region in our sky which remains largely mysterious.
If you happen to fancy one of these mock meteor showers yourself, it won't come cheap. Each shooting star is expected to carry a price tag in excess of $8,000 — a necessarily steep fee, as the company attempts to make back the exorbitant cost of developing and launching their satellite.
So, it turns out, it does make a difference who you are, if you want to wish upon an artificial shooting star: someone with deep pockets.
It's a good thing that wishing wells still only cost a penny.
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