Japanese company develops artificial meteor showers on demand

A Japanese start-up built a microsatellite that was launched into orbit today. The satellite contains 400 tiny balls that can be released on demand and will burn brightly enough to be seen on Earth as they burn up in the atmosphere.

From Channel NewsAsia:

ALE Co. Ltd (Astro Live Experiences) says it is targeting "the whole world" with its products and plans to build a stockpile of shooting stars in space that can be delivered across the world.

When its two satellites are in orbit, they can be used separately or in tandem, and will be programmed to eject the balls at the right location, speed and direction to put on a show for viewers on the ground.

Tinkering with the ingredients in the balls should mean that it is possible to change the colors they glow, offering the possibility of a multi-colored flotilla of shooting stars.

Each star is expected to shine for several seconds before being completely burned up - well before they fall low enough to pose any danger to anything on Earth.

They would glow brightly enough to be seen even over the light-polluted metropolis of Tokyo, ALE says.

From ALE:

ALE is a Japan-based space entertainment startup that creates shooting stars on demand using microsatellites. Its mission is to contribute to scientific research through entertainment. It was founded in September 2011 by Lena Okajima, a serial entrepreneur with a Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of Tokyo.

Natural shooting stars occur when dust particles of several millimeters in size enter the Earth’s atmosphere and burn due to plasma emission. ALE reproduces this artificially by inventing shooting star particles and using specially designed microsatellites. The process is as follows-we launch a microsatellite containing shooting star particles into outer space; we release shooting star particles from the microsatellite once it stabilizes in orbit around the Earth; the particles travel approximately one third of the way around the Earth and burn upon entering the atmosphere, becoming shooting stars visible from an area 200 km in diameter on the ground.

Image: ALE