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A Chinese city plans to replace street lights with its own moon

Chengdu, in southwestern China, hopes to launch an "illumination satellite" in 2020.


The moon just doesn't cut it anymore for one Chinese city.

NASA/Bill Ingalls

A Chinese city is tired of relying on electricity and the regular old moon to provide lights around town at night. So the city of Chengdu hopes instead to launch a better and brighter artificial moon that could be bright enough to replace street lights.

According to local media reports, the idea was presented earlier this month by Wu Chunfeng, chairman of the -- take a deep breath -- Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute Co.

Details on the "illumination satellite" are few, but Wu said it would be eight times brighter than the actual moon, could light an area 10 to 80 kilometers (6.2 to 50 miles) wide, and that its exact lighting range could be controlled within a few dozen meters, according to the People's Daily Online

Asia Times reports that the satellite would have a "highly reflective coating to reflect light from the sun with solar panel-like wings whose angles can be adjusted."

In 1999, a Russian experiment to deploy a large mirror in space designed to function like an artificial moon was unsuccessful after it failed to unfold properly. 

Wu told reporters the technology is now "mature" and will be launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in 2020.