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China to launch artificial moon by 2020. Here's what it will do

A quarter of the moon is seen through Christmas lights in Milan, Italy, Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2011.
A quarter of the moon is seen through Christmas lights in Milan, Italy, Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2011.
Luca Bruno, AP

SALT LAKE CITY — Chinese scientists are planning to put an artificial moon into the sky by 2020 as a way to illuminate city streets after dark.

What’s happening: Scientists hope they can hang the artificial moon above Chengdu, the capital city in the Sichuan province, China Daily reports.

  • The moon, which would actually just be a glowing satellite, will reflect sunlight back to Earth.
  • Scientists hope the light will replace streetlights.
  • In fact, scientists think it will be eight times more luminous than the real moon.
  • Wu Chunfeng, chief of the Tian Fu New Area Science Society, told China Daily it won’t appear too much brighter than the normal moon.
  • “Its expected brightness, in the eyes of humans, is around one-fifth of normal streetlights.”

Flashback: China is not alone. Russia tried launching an orbital mirror back in the 1990s. However, they dropped the project after the mirror didn’t unfold and it incinerated on its way into space, Time magazine reports.

Similarly, Rocket Lab out of the United States launched an artificial star. However, the star reportedly added to artificial light pollution and cluttering of Earth's orbit, The New York Times reports.