In today's "I can't believe they have been funded" news, a startup called Star-ALE wants to create a man-made meteor shower over the city of Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics opening ceremonies. But unlike fireworks, this pyrotechnics show will be visible from an area 200km across Japan.
The first step is a little more involved than just setting up a bunch of fireworks mortars around the Olympic stadium, though. The reason Star-ALE calls its Sky Canvas light show a man-made meteor shower is because the pyrotechnics will actually rain down from space. Starting next year, the company will launch a series of microsatellites carrying 500 to 1000 specially-developed pellets that ignite and intensely glow as they re-enter the earth's atmosphere.
Like with fireworks, the combustible pellets are made from various metals and elements so that they burn with different colours, adding to the spectacle and improving on what Mother Nature can do. To make sure the idea actually works, in a lab here on earth the pellets were placed in a vacuum chamber and blasted with supersonic hot gases, simulating the friction they'd experience as they re-entered our planet's atmosphere.
As they return to earth, the pellets ignite at an altitude of 60km to 80km above our heads. From the ground they can be seen from an area at least 200km across and, over the city of Tokyo and the surrounding areas, that means a potential audience of 30,000,000 people will be able to watch the show.
A massive audience is part of the appeal of the Sky Canvas show, as each of those magic pallets apparently cost just over $US8,000 ($11,048) to manufacture. And that doesn't include the cost of the satellite, and getting the whole thing into orbit. It's true that host nations try to pull out all the stops to put on an impressive show during the Olympics, but is this maybe taking things a bit too far? If the Tokyo 2020 Olympics weren't over-budget already, this would surely not help their bottom line.