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Japanese space company to create first artificial meteor shower

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A Japanese space company is preparing to launch what it calls the world's first artificial meteor shower.

Space startup ALE, founded in 2011 and based in Tokyo, announced on March 30 the global launch of its Sky Canvas project, which will create human-made shooting stars while also collecting atmospheric data.

The company describes Sky Canvas as "the Earth's first space entertainment technology encouraging science" that aims "to create a new generation of space and science enthusiasts by providing an experience for everyone and a contribution to climate research."

It's unclear whether the meteor shower will be visible in Canada but media reports suggest it could occur sometime within the next couple of years.

"Our aim is to contribute to the sustainable development of humankind and to bring space closer to all of us, by expanding the area of human activity beyond Earth to discover, collect and apply essential data from space," Lena Okajima, founder and CEO of ALE, said in a news release.

"As a first step, I founded ALE to create the world's first human-made shooting star, to inspire wonder and to spark scientific curiosity."

The company plans to launch meteor-replicating particles from its satellite and then study their path and light emissions.

Meteorites create light from the extreme aerodynamic heating of small dust particles as they travel through the Earth's atmosphere at high speed, ALE says, creating the phenomenon known as shooting stars.

The company says it has been difficult to gather meaningful data from the mesosphere, one of the four primary layers of the Earth's atmosphere just above the stratosphere, in part because it is too high for balloons to reach.

At about 85 kilometres high, the mesosphere is also where meteors burn up.

NASA says because the mesosphere responds to small changes in chemistry and composition, studying it is essential to understanding how long-term changes in the Earth's atmosphere can affect climate.

"In the future, by combining critical climate research with a new form of space entertainment we believe we can further our scientific understanding of climate change while also inspiring curiosity and interest in people all over the world about space and the universe," Okajima said. 

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