Japanese start-up company, ALE, is planning on making meteors rain down on Earth. Not the Armageddon type meteors, but rather a celebratory kind. Lena Okajima, who holds a doctorate in astronomy, says her company is intending to launch a micro satellite that can eject shooting stars at exactly the right time and place to put on a celestial show.
Her team at ALE is in the process of developing a satellite that will orbit the Earth and upon command will eject balls one inch in size at a time. This is all being done in collaboration with engineers and scientists at Japanese universities.
The miniature research vessel will only be about 20 inches long, with the hope that these customisable mini meteors will not just provide a spectacular visual show, but will also assist in the understanding of the atmosphere that there is no current knowledge of.
Speaking to the Japan Times, Okajima said, “Making the sky a screen is this project’s biggest attraction. It’s a space display”. To date, ALE’s tests have proved that the man-made show can be observed in Tokyo even through its dense light pollution. However problems can occur in cloudy weather Okajima said, but customers could delay the launch for up to 100 minutes before a schedule and arrange another time for the viewing.
At a cost of around a million Yen, or $8,000 per shooting star, this is going to prove to be an expensive show to put on and maintain with the already existing cost more than a billion Yen to develop and research it. Hironori Sahara, an associate professor at Tokyo Metropolitan University’s aerospace engineering department is an advocate of the project. The combination of a paid-for product and useful science could blaze a trail for researchers looking to fund their work without the need for taxpayer’s money he said. ALE has been in talks with individual investors however it does not intend to limit its future clientele who could range from millionaires to science teams and corporate giants.
The altitude at which the stars come to life is too high for balloons and too low for spacecraft so is difficult to study; however this project presents a solution to this problem. Sahara also he believes it offers the rare chance to observe a part of the atmosphere that is little known.
– Ian Dunne, Correspondent (Tech)