Jan 23, 2019 I Brett Tingley

Japan Just Launched a Satellite to Create Psychedelic Artificial Meteor Showers

Over the last few years, we’ve covered the development of the insane-sounding artificial meteor showers being developed by a Japanese start up. The company plans to launch tiny cube satellites into low orbit which can eject payloads of pellets designed to burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere. Those pellets are crafted with a secret chemical composition in order to create psychedelic technicolor meteor showers for everyone below. Say it with me now: what could go wrong?

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"Whoops. You said the extra-extra-large pellets, right?"

You know, I don’t care what could go wrong. I’m going to get some hallucinogens, travel to wherever this is happening, listen to Vangelis, and have my mind freakin’ blown. The company behind this brain-bending technology is called Astro Live Experiences, or ALE, and promises “a whole new level of entertainment.” While ALE has been developing the “Sky Canvas” system for a while now, the company has just announced that its first prototype has been sent into space aboard an Epsilon rocket. Put in your magic mushroom orders now, because they’re sure to sell fast once these meteor showers start turning the night sky into a psychedelic light show.

Not everyone is happy about Sky Canvas, naturally. Hugh Lewis, a space debris and space junk expert at the University of Southampton, says the idea is irresponsible. “Given the fact that we’re trying to encourage good behaviour in the space environment and so on, just to throw things up there because they look pretty is a bit problematic,” Lewis told the BBC. Lewis believes there’s no way that ALE will be able to control the trajectory of the meteors like expected, meaning there could be potential unknown consequences like damage to other satellites or even interference with aircraft. In order to have their meteor showers happen where and when they want to, ALE will have to perfectly calculate the launch vectors of their pellets in order to have them visible at the desired time and place, which it plans to do at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. 頑張って!

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I'm pretty sure this is a depiction of Sky Canvas, although it could be a panel from a manga about a horrible alien coming to destroy Earth.

ALE points out these unknowns right in their latest press release announcing the launch of their first satellite. “Because no one else has attempted this challenge before,” the company writes, “there have been no safety guidelines implemented for a mission of this type.” ALE says they held “multiple safety discussions and workshops” with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to determine how best to not interfere with other satellites or create dangerous side-effects.

I don’t know why, but for some reason despite the potential dangers, Sky Canvas excites me - but the orbital billboards being planned by a Russian startup horrify and disgust me. Sure, advertising can be called a form of art, but these meteor showers feel much more expressive, concerned solely with creating beauty and wonder than selling cheap crap to the masses. Will the skies become the next big medium for artists and advertisers? It's likely inevitable. In some ways the skies already are a medium for advertisers through sky writing, those annoying banners pulled by planes, and blimps. Won't giant luminous objects and spectacles be just a little more aesthetically pleasing? I, for one, welcome the glowing rainbow-colored skies of our cyberpunk future.

Brett Tingley

Brett Tingley is a writer and musician living in the ancient Appalachian mountains.

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