Japanese firm launching 'meteor shower on demand' service
Published Wednesday, January 24, 2018 11:06AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 24, 2018 8:13PM EST
A Japanese tech start-up is preparing to offer out-of-this-world space fireworks for deep-pocketed customers, with a “meteor shower on demand” service slated to launch in 2019.
Astro Live Experience says its Sky Canvas project will position multiple satellites in Earth’s orbit, each containing hundreds of particles waiting to be released into the atmosphere. ALE expects the particles to burn up on the way down, creating spectacular meteor showers that should be easier to see than the natural phenomenon.
Josh Rodenbaugh, who works in satellite operations at ALE, says the company’s man-made meteor showers will be much more spectacular than the real thing.
“Our shooting stars will move slower across the sky, they’ll burn longer and they’ll burn much, much brighter, even brightly enough to see within a major city like Tokyo,” Rodenbaugh told CTV’s Your Morning on Wednesday.
Rodenbaugh says the key to building a better meteor shower lies in the particles used to create it. Natural meteor showers are generated by tiny bits of space dust and grains of sand burning up in the atmosphere and moving at high speed. ALE plans to improve upon that process by using larger particles measuring approximately 1 centimetre in diameter.
“Our shooting stars will be larger,” he said. “They burn up in the atmosphere like natural shooting stars, but much, much better.”
Rodenbaugh adds that the project will not contribute to the mass of space junk currently orbiting our planet, because the particles are small enough that they will have burned up within the first 40 kilometres of their fall.
“There’s absolutely no space debris created,” he said.
The company was founded by current CEO Lena Okajima, who holds a PhD in astrophysics from Tokyo University.
Rodenbaugh says Okajima got her idea for the company from her own experience as a young girl.
“She grew up in a rural part of Japan and she frequently got to see shooting stars as a child,” he said. “This is something that she’s always wanted to share with people.”
He added that ALE wants to inspire young children to pursue a career in astronomy or another STEM field.
However, there are few children in the world who will be able to afford one of ALE’s on-demand meteor showers.
Rodenbaugh says the company hasn’t yet worked out how much it will cost to order a meteor shower, but it’ll probably be prohibitively expensive for any but the most wealthy corporations.
“There’s probably not too many individuals that can call us up and order one of these,” he said.