A rocket carrying a satellite on a mission to deliver the world’s first artificial meteor shower blasted into space on Friday, Japanese scientists said.
The satellite is to release tiny balls that glow brightly as they hurtle through the atmosphere, simulating a meteor shower.
It hitched a ride on the small-size Epsilon-4 rocket that was launched from the Uchinoura space centre by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on Friday morning.
The company ALE Co. Ltd plans to deliver its first out-of-this-world show over Hiroshima in the spring of 2020.
The satellite launched Friday carries 400 tiny balls whose chemical formula is a closely-guarded secret.
That should be enough for 20-30 events, as one shower will involve up to 20 stars, according to the company.
ALE’s satellite, released 500 kilometres (310 miles) above the Earth, will gradually descend to 400 kilometres over the coming year as it orbits the Earth.
Worldwide meteor shower shows
The company plans to launch a second satellite on a private-sector rocket in mid-2019.
ALE says it is targeting “the whole world” with its products and plans to build a stockpile of shooting stars in space that can be delivered across the world.
When its two satellites are in orbit, they can be used separately or in tandem, and will be programmed to eject the balls at the right location, speed and direction to put on a show for viewers on the ground.
Tinkering with the ingredients in the balls should mean that it is possible to change the colours they glow, offering the possibility of a multi-coloured flotilla of shooting stars.