China intends to launch 3 artificial moons to replace streetlights by 2022

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The artificial moon would be able to light an area of up to 10 to 80 kilometers in diameter, giving a dusk-like hue to complement the real moon in the sky.

Apparently the necessary technology has already been tested and the satellite itself could be ready to take to orbit as early as 2020.

If Chengdu can get approval for the artificial moon and actually launch it in space in the next couple of years, the city is hopeful it'll help it save money on illuminating its streets. The imitation celestial body - essentially an illuminated satellite - will bear a reflective coating to cast sunlight back to Earth, where it will supplement streetlights at night.

The idea for the project reportedly came from a French artist "who imagined hanging a necklace made of mirrors above the Earth which could reflect sunshine through the streets of Paris all year round".

The brightness of the artificial moon would be bright enough to replace streetlights, another state-run media outlet, Xinhua, quoted Wu as saying.

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However, the exact details of the spacecraft, the launch date and how the artificial moon would be maintained were not revealed.

About concerns that the man-made moonlight will interrupt the normal day-night cycle of animals and plants, Wu said the light intensity and illumination time can be adjusted and the accuracy of illumination can be controlled within scores of meters.

A similar project was launched by the Russians in 1999 to use orbiting mirrors to light up cities in Siberia as a cheap alternative to electricity.

However, Wu stressed that much work still needs to be done, both in terms of scientific feasibility and business models, to tap into the full potential of China's artificial moons. Scientists have always been critical of human light pollution and its ability to potentially throw off the day/night rhythm of animals, and the same could be true of this fake moon plan.

The device, dubbed Znamya 2, collapsed soon after take-off and was subsequently abandoned.