Unprecedented man-made meteor shower to kick off 2020 Tokyo Olympics
By By Brian Lada, Meteorologist
May 25, 2016, 5:55:38 PM EDT
The opening ceremony is one of the most highly anticipated events of every Olympic Games and the opening of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo may feature something no other ever has: a man-made meteor shower.
A Japanese start-up company called ALE has developed a satellite that could produce a man-made meteor shower anywhere in the world at any time, but the spectacle will come at a cost.
At $8,100 per meteor, an artificial meteor shower could cost millions of dollars depending on the desired number of shooting stars and length of the shower.
The company plans to accomplish this expensive, but jaw-dropping, feat by sending a small satellite into orbit carrying a payload of specially designed pellets.
These pellets will be ejected down into the Earth’s atmosphere at a specific time and will simulate actual meteors, eventually burning up and producing a bright light visible to spectators on the ground.
“It is artificial but I want to make really beautiful ones that can impress viewers,” Lena Okajima, CEO and founder of ALE, said to AFP.
In the case of the 2020 Olympics, this means that the people at the opening ceremony may be the first people to ever witness a man-made meteor shower in the skies of Tokyo.
Not only will ALE be able to produce a meteor shower on demand, but the company will also be able to control the colors of the man-made shooting stars.
Although the company has not said what materials they will use to create these pellets, the chemical composition will likely be made out of specific materials known to produce different colors in actual meteors.
“The color is basically determined by the chemical makeup of debris,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist David Samuhel said. “For example, meteors made of magnesium emit a bluish-white light.”
While ALE may be able to control where and when a meteor shower occurs, as well as the color of light the artificial meteors emit, they will not be able to control the weather at the predetermined time of the shower.
“The weather plays an important role,” Samuhel said. “The meteors [burn up] well above the weather-producing layer of the atmosphere, so any clouds in the lower atmosphere will prevent the meteors from being visible.”
This means that if there are clouds over Tokyo for the opening ceremony of the 2020 Olympics, then the debut of the man-made meteor shower will have to be delayed.
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