Meteor showers are a fascinating natural phenomenon, and few people get the chance to witness them during their lifetime. There are dozens of meteor showers each year, but what if we could control these showers and make them happen more often? While we can’t control actual meteor showers, we now have the technology to make our own. A Japanese company called Astro Live Experiences (ALE) will create the first artificial meteor shower in 2019.
The meteor shower will be large, and viewable over a 125 area in Hiroshima, Japan and other smaller cities in the Setouchi region of Japan. The spectacle will be created by satellites, and ALE hopes that the technology will be perfected in time for the opening ceremony of the 2020 Olympics, set to be held in Tokyo.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like these artificial meteor showers will be a regular occurrence. The showers are created by showering the atmosphere with hundreds of metal spheres that are roughly the size of blueberries, and each sphere costs roughly $8000. The initial test run will include around 300 pellets, each of which are controllable remotely to release the payload at different angles and times. The event is likely to be brighter and more colorful than a natural shower, as ALE controls and manipulates the spheres for maximum entertainment value.
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The metal spheres will be made up of different materials, and like fireworks, they produce different colors based on their makeup. Copper will produce green, potassium purple, sodium yellow and so on. It’s set to be an awe-inspiring, albeit very expensive spectacle.
Natural meteor showers occur when the Earth orbits by an area of space covered in debris, but adding to that debris artificially might not be the best idea.
While Astro Live Experiences touts the artificial meteors showers as “a whole new level of entertainment,” there are always associated concerns when it comes to launching something back towards Earth. Some scientists have expressed worries that the artificial meteor shower could lead to excess material that will add to our problem of space debris floating around the planet. This debris is especially problematic because it can threaten the International Space Station.
If the safety concerns behind these artificial meteor showers can get worked out, it will be a beautiful and unique addition to the opening ceremonies in 2020. However, threatening our scientists and astronauts aboard the space station with unnecessary floating metals is probably not worth the beautiful display.