Agence France-Presse reports:
China is planning to launch its own ‘artificial moon’ by 2020 to replace streetlamps and lower electricity costs in urban areas, state media reported Friday. Chengdu, a city in southwestern Sichuan province, is developing “illumination satellites” which will shine in tandem with the real moon, but are eight times brighter, according to China Daily.
By reflecting light from the sun, the satellites could replace streetlamps in urban areas, saving an estimated 1.2 billion yuan (USD 170 million) a year in electricity costs for Chengdu, if the man-made moons illuminate an area of 50 square kilometers. The extraterrestrial source of light could also help rescue efforts in disaster zones during blackouts, he added.
Live Science reports:
Regarding concerns about the Chinese artificial moon interfering with astronomical observations or disrupting animals that are active at night, Kang Weimin, the director of the Institute of Optics of the Harbin Institute of Technology in China, said that the light would amount to only a “dusk-like glow,” PDO reported.
However, research has shown that many animals are highly sensitive to the light and phases of the moon. For example, nocturnal eagle owls communicate with each other through the display of white throat feathers, and scientists have found this activity increases during the full moon, when moonlight is brightest.
If the test goes well, China says it will launch at least three more satellites over other cities.