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.