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.
A start-up based in Tokyo developed the micro-satellite for the celestial show over Hiroshima early next year as the initial experiment for what it calls a “shooting stars on demand” service.
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 rocket carried a total of seven ultra-small satellites that will demonstrate various “innovative” technologies, JAXA spokesman Nobuyoshi Fujimoto told AFP.
By early afternoon, JAXA confirmed all seven satellites had successfully been launched into orbit.
“I was too moved for words,” Lena Okajima, president of the company behind the artificial meteor showers, told the Jiji Press agency.
“I feel like now the hard work is ahead.”
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.
Each star is expected to shine for several seconds before being completely burned up — well before they fall low enough to pose any danger to anything on Earth.
They would glow brightly enough to be seen even over the light-polluted metropolis of Tokyo, ALE says.
If all goes well, and the skies are clear, the 2020 event could be visible to millions of people, it says.
Okajima has said her company chose Hiroshima for its first display because of its good weather, landscape and cultural assets.
The western Japan city rose from the ashes after the 1945 US atomic bombing and faces the Seto Inland sea where the floating gate of Itsukushima Shrine is.
ALE is working in collaboration with scientists and engineers at Japanese universities as well as local government officials and corporate sponsors.
It has not disclosed the price for an artificial meteor shower.
‘The worst day of the presidency so far for Donald Trump’: Advisor to four presidents
President Donald Trump has not had a worse day in office than he suffered on Friday, according to a top former White House advisor.
David Gergen served in the administrations of Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. He was interviewed Friday night by CNN's Anderson Cooper.
"If you are looking to throw somebody under the bus, Gordon Sondland would probably be a prime candidate to be next in line to be thrown under the bus," Cooper said.
"I think the president will wait patiently to see what he says and then decide," Gergen replied.
He then offered his analysis of the situation.
Chris Hayes breaks down the ‘busy day in the criminal chronicles of one President Donald J. Trump’
MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes connected the dots between all of the bombshell news that was reported Friday in the impeachment hearings into President Donald Trump.
"Good God, today has been ten days and this week has been ten weeks," Hayes said. "And there are a million things happening at once."
"Just in the past couple of hours, for instance, we just got this incredibly incriminating and damning behind closed doors testimony from a U.S. foreign service officer that was still supposed to be kind of like the B-story today, the sideshow," he explained. "It's a guy who works in the U.S. embassy in Ukraine, a guy named David Holmes. He testified behind closed doors that he could hear president Trump talking on the phone to the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union who was an inaugural donor, and they were in a restaurant in Kiev and the president was shouting so loudly on the phone that [Gordon] Sondland had to hold the phone away from his ear because it was hurting his eardrum, so then everyone could hear."
Trump ignored aides’ advice before first Ukraine call — and it destroyed his impeachment defense: report
President Donald Trump has repeatedly referred to himself as his own top advisor and a political "genius." But his interactions with Ukraine at the heart of the impeachment inquiry could demonstrate the limitations of such an approach to governing.
Friday's bombshell, behind-closed-door testimony from David Holmes has made White House aides unhappy, but the bad news for the administration did not stop there.