Back in 2015 we reported on ALE (pronounced like the beverage) and their goal of producing meteor showers on demand for anyone who orders it. Now, ALE is currently well on their way of producing the world’s first artificial meteor shower in the coming years.
ALE founder and CEO – also former investment banker, mother of two with a PhD in astronomy, and all-around uberwoman – Lena Okajima announced the Shooting Star Challenge: a trial run of their meteor shower producing satellite which will be held likely in 2019 over the Setouchi (Seto Inland Sea) area of Hiroshima Prefecture.
Despite their magical reputation, shooting stars are just pieces of space debris from millimeters to a few centimeters thick that fly into Earth’s atmosphere and brightly burn up into nothing. ALE simply recreates that phenomenon by firing their own specially made pellets through the atmosphere in such a way that they burn up in a designated section of sky.
However, since ALE’s pellets are artificial they can also be designed to burn brighter and longer than natural meteors in a color of the customer’s choosing, lasting for about five to ten seconds each, and being visible within a 100-kilometer radius.
In the Shooting Star Challenge, a satellite will be placed in orbit about 500 kilometers above Australia. From there it will release pellets toward Japan which will take about 15 minutes to fall to a height of 60 kilometers above Setouchi and begin to burn. This part of Hiroshima was chosen as the test site for its popularity, nice scenery, and high rate of clear skies.
A single 60-centimeter satellite is expected to hold from 300 to 400 meteor pellets which is hoped to last until the end of the craft’s one year life in orbit. In addition to providing a pyrotechnic display like no other, the project will also gather valuable data on physics in the upper atmosphere.
Because of its blend of research and entertainment, ALE is getting support from major educational facilities such as Tohoku University and Tokyo Metropolitan University, as well as financing from corporate heavyweights FamilyMart and JAL.
The big question is whether the 2020 Olympic opening ceremony will be treated to a meteor shower or not, but it certainly looks like things are on track for that to happen. Okajima made no mention of the games but said, “These days people are usually looking down at their smartphones. I want to make people look upwards again.”
Anyone in Hiroshima will want to keep their eyes peeled on the heavens over the next few years. Details aren’t set yet, but a dazzling demonstration is coming your way.
Source: Sankei News, ALE
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