Technology can be used to create pretty much anything these days, but few probably thought we’d be creating a planetary body. In essence, that’s what the Chinese city of Chengdu wants to do. City officials are planning to build an artificial moon by 2020 to hang over the city; it would be a massive illuminated orb, eight times brighter than the actual moon.
No, they’re not doing it because the people of Chengdu are all lunar enthusiasts. It’s actually intended to save the city money by eliminating the need for streetlights.
While the moon would be able to illuminate an area up to 50 miles in diameter, it would be visible all throughout China and even overseas. The man-made moon is designed with a highly reflective coating, which would reflect light from the sun with adjustable solar panels. Although the fake moon would provide significantly more light than the regular moon, it would only be capable of a dusk-like glow, so the city won’t exactly be bathed in light at 1:00 AM.
Chengdu’s moon project might be ambitious, but it isn’t the first of its kind. In 1993, the New York Times reported a failed Russian attempt to launch a solar reflecting system, or “space mirror,” to produce light “equivalent to three to five full moons.” The original idea for an artificial moon actually came from a French artist, who envisioned hanging a necklace of mirrors above Earth to reflect the sunshine throughout Paris all year round.
Because the moon can impact the routines and behaviors of many animals, some are concerned that this artificial moon may have ill effects on local wildlife. However, since the moon will only provide a dim, “dusk-like glow,” it should not have any negative effects on animals.