Painting The Sky With Shooting Stars

Project Sky Canvas - artificial shooting stars

Japanese company ALE has been working on a new type of sky show, artificial shooting stars, literally creating an artificial meteor shower at a height of 40 to 50 miles (60 to 80km). The show will be visible to anyone within a 125 mile diameter area (200km), meaning that people in New York city and Philadelphia or Los Angeles and San Diego can watch the same show. Aptly named, they’re calling the project “Sky Canvas”.

The plan is to have a satellite, containing around 500 to 1000 source particles, discharge the particles with a specially designed device. As the video below shows, by ejecting the particles in a continuous manner, rather than all at once, they’ll create the equivalent of a meteor shower. The particles will travel around 1/3rd the way around the Earth before entering the atmosphere, creating the shower of shooting stars. Different colors will be possible by using different materials for the particles, something this fireball cannon illustrates.

So far, testing has been done in an arc-heated wind tunnel, similar to putting a test object in the flame of a blow torch. These wind tunnels, one of which you can see in action below the break, produce supersonic streams and temperatures in the thousands of degrees. They test what objects entering the Earth’s atmosphere would experience as they’re engulfed in plasma from their interaction with the air at high velocity. With the wind tunnel ALE has produced an apparent magnitude -1. Siruis, the brightest star in the night sky, has an apparent magnitude of -1.5, meaning that the shooting stars will be visible from in a city (the smaller the number, the easier it is to see the object.)

ALE is planning to launch their first shower in 2017. In the meantime you can use a Raspberry Pi with its nifty camera add-on to capture nature’s own meteor showers.

In the video below you can see an arc heated wind tunnel in action as a test object is inserted into the plasma.

39 thoughts on “Painting The Sky With Shooting Stars

        1. No, they are specifically designed to burn up. And, being light and flimsy, have little chance of small parts landing in a populated area due to the calculated ejection time and trajectory. But USSTRATCOM tracks those too because they pose a danger to other launches.

          1. And most are ejected well below low earth orbit, so they don’t burn up all, but simply drop into the ocean (or desert) in a well predicted way.

          2. And stages that are in low earth orbits are tracked carefully to predict collisions with other LEO satellites, and map planned trajectories of new satellites.

          3. and what prevents the “stars” from being designed to burn up in a similar way?
            even fairly dense 100kg+ satellites will burn as their orbit decays, now i am not saying that dropping multiple objects through the atmosphere in the vicinity of population centers is a good idea, just that calling them inherently weaponized as opposed to anything else brought to those energies is in my opinion not warranted.
            in what way is this “one step away from satellite based kinetic energy weapons.” in a way that any other satellite isn’t?

          4. No one said it was inherently weaponized. Dave had simply implied the design could be used as a weapon, and I implied the design of the device would cause any government agency some problems. For example, the device could release a poorly designed (it does not burn up completely as it should) projectile from the opposite side of the earth, and without warning you have a small projectile traveling at Mach 7+ punching through a skyscraper in Manhattan.
            The fact that this satellite is designed to purposely project pieces in a specific trajectory will cause some government agencies to look very carefully at it’s design and deployment.

    1. The 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The 2020 Tokyo Olympics that has its venue obliterated by a space-based weapon in Akira? You know, ever since Tokyo was chosen to host the 2020 Olympics– some 31 years after it was already portrayed as hosting them in the manga –I’ve been making jokes, but the pieces just keep falling into place…

  1. I think it’s obnoxious and should not be done, don’t force such things on too many people.
    And of course it messes up astronomy when the sky is full of bright spots for no reason too I imagine.

    And as others hinted, it’ll run the risk of getting out of hand if you allow this.

    1. I think it’s nuts. It’s exactly the kind of retarded scheme that a 12-year old kid would come up with after gorging on Sci-Fi cartoons.

      Maybe GPS, Gallileo, GLONAS …. NSA-kit and whatever *else* lives in LEO will not *like* thousands of “small particles” – the size of what, like ball-bearings perhaps (?) – shat all over their environment when the launch vehicle malfunctions, someone slips a comma, someone else does a metric to imperial mistake. Whatever.

      The odds of something going wrong “up there” are 1:20 – 1:50. The fuck-up potential is huge. Maybe worst case is that several satellites are destroyed and after that we can’t economically launch anything for years until the recent spate of high speed collisions with bits blown off other satellites go back down to normal.

  2. We should all be protesting against this.

    If it’s alright for Japan then it will be all right for google and out skies will (eventually) be plastered in ads.

    Surely human being have a right to independent thought without interference and hence a right to be able to *escape* ads.

        1. wat da fuq? Just post the damn YouTube link!
          And some people think I’m bad at this…
          I’m not sure this is a good idea. Eventually some satellite will get sent off course and millions of dollars will be wasted.

          1. Okay. I played the audio of course, very funny. I wish there was a preview button or something! Can’t sandbox every single link-post to see if it works right.
            Well, Futurama FTW anyway. :)
            (Except Jurassic Bark! Gave me the feels.)

  3. With all the light pollution already widely prevalent, this fool hearty concern wants to add even more for fun and (their) profit?? This is so wrong on so many levels (introducing a very bad legal predicent, selling the control of the night skies to the highest bidders to control at their whim, etc,) We should be fighting for predictably dark skies and light pollution reduction in the same way we are fighting to preserve eco space for endangered animal species. Truly progressive laws and limits would recognize the night sky is NOT something that can be sold to the highest bidder to do with whatever they want, it is a shared natural recourse and as such needs to be retained in as close to it’s natural state as possible. Bad, very bad.

  4. Wow. Weird ignorant comments.

    It’s not dangerous. Particles stream into our atmosphere constantly. It’s like shooting an elephant with an airsoft. Or thinking tossing a handful of sand into a pond is endangering the fish.

    And dropping weaponry from space sure as hell isn’t a new idea. It was the original idea.

  5. what some call a pyrotechnics display, I call a weapons prototype test. :)

    “here at Orbital Artillery Command, we do not think of ourselves as God. We merely borrowed His “Smite” button”.

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