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Bigger, better, brighter: China replaces street lights with artificial moon

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Bigger, better, brighter: China replaces street lights with artificial moon

Nic Sloan, Co-Editor

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Chinese scientists are planning to take a different approach on lighting up their city nights. The city of Chengdu is soon to be home to an artificial moon that will light up their cityscape during the night. The Tianfu New Area Science Society, the research society responsible for creating the moon, are planning to launch this moon over the city by 2020.

  The “moon” isn’t actually a moon at all. It’s more like a giant illuminated satellite. It works by reflecting sunlight back onto the earth. The moon will orbit around 300 miles above the city, much closer than the real moon, which is roughly 236,000 miles away.

  Scientists predict that this artificial moon will be at least 8 times brighter than the actual moon, providing plenty of light for the city. However, the estimated brightness would only be one-fifth of what street lights provide. If their project proves to be successful, then they will launch 3 more follow-up moons in 2022 to help create full visibility.

  If all goes according to plan, all these moons will work in collaboration with each other to light up the entire city. They will be able to light up a area of around 2,000 to 4,000 square miles for up to 24 hours in total.

  But what’s the point of it all? Turns out the artificial moon holds many advantages over traditional street lights. The biggest benefit by far, and the main reason for it’s construction, is the cost advantage. It’s estimated the moon will save around 1.2 billion yuan (173 million USD) annually.

  “It would be an expensive initial cost, but it would save a lot more money overall from replacing street lights” Braden Vollman (11).

  All these costs are the estimated savings in just a 31 square mile area. The final product, which includes their 3 follow-up moons, will greatly increase the amount of savings, as they will cover a substantially larger area.

  The system is also highly controllable. According to Wu Chengfu, head of the Tianfu New Area Science Society, he moon’s brightness can be adjusted to create the desired brightness, and can also be completely shutdown if necessary. The moon’s location is also adjustable, and can be moved to aid in disaster relief by providing light to areas stuck without power.

  However, theses scientists still face many challenges which would hinder their progress. For one, these scientists are still uncertain whether their moon will have a detrimental effect on the environment. This moon could disrupt Circadian rhythms, such as the sleep-wake cycle, or the body-temperature cycle. These cycles are dependant on the body being able to recognize the difference between day and night, and this moon could interfere with that ability in both humans and animals.

  Chengfu has stated that they will test their moon in uninhabited places such as deserts and other remote locations. They want to insure that their moon will be a probable solution to supplement streetlights, without creating issues such as light pollution.

  Attempts similar to this moon have been conducted in the past, but to no avail. In 1993 Russian cosmonauts tried to use an small orbital mirror to reflect light towards the Earth. It proved successful at first, but burned up within a couple days and reentered the Earth’s atmosphere. The project was abandoned since the incident.

  If China’s ambitions prove to be successful, it could create a viable alternative to street lights to supplement not only themselves, but potentially the entire globe eventually.

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The Official Online Newspaper of Skyline High School
Bigger, better, brighter: China replaces street lights with artificial moon