Jul 10, 2015 I Paul Seaburn

Man-made Meteor Showers – What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

A Japanese company is raising money to send balls made from an unspecified chemical into space inside a satellite, then release them to create an artificial meteor shower. What could possibly go wrong? Maybe they should check with the 1200 people injured by a real meteorite explosion in Chelyabinsk in 2013.

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Damage from the meteorite explosion in Chelyabinsk in 2013

The company is called ALE Ltd. and its CEO, Lena Okajima, is a doctor of astronomy. So why does she want to doctor up the atmosphere over the Earth with meteorites?

I’m thinking of streams of meteors that are rare in nature. It is artificial, but I want to make really beautiful ones that can impress viewers.

That’s right … for entertainment! ALE is developing a microsatellite that will be placed in Earth orbit filled with spheres whose chemical composition they refuse to reveal. The tiny balls will be ejected at a pre-selected spot where they will enter the atmosphere at 7-8 km per second. At some point, the friction from the atmosphere will ignite the mysterious chemical, causing the balls to flame on and create a faux meteor shower.

That 7-8 km per second is much slower than real meteors, which travel at ten times that speed. Will that slower speed mean that some of these flying marbles will pass through the atmosphere intact? Do you own a helmet?

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Lena Okajima holding a bag of fake meteors made with a secret chemical

While the chemical formula of these balls is a secret, Shinsuke Abe, an aerospace engineering associate professor at Nihon University, says they will burn bright enough to see through the air pollution of Tokyo. That’s comforting – they’re adding to the atmospheric pollution over Tokyo and bragging that you’ll still be able to see their fake meteor showers through it. You’ll also be able to see the satellite when it burns up – hopefully after it dumps its load of chemical balls.

If you’re interested in wasting spending your money, developing and launching the microsatellite will cost $8.2 million and the little fake meteorites cost $8,200 a piece.

Let’s see … we have unknown chemicals burning up in the atmosphere over unsuspecting people just for entertainment. What could possibly go wrong?

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You'd think an astronomer would be able to find real meteor showers to look at

Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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