Start-up aims to offer on-demand meteor showers

Chuck Bednar for – @BednarChuck

Ever wanted to see a meteor shower, but wish you could do it on your own schedule instead of having to wait until just the right moment? Scientists at a Japanese start-up could soon be able to accommodate you by making it so that shooting stars can rain down on-demand.

According to, officials at the company, ALE, said they possess a secret chemical formula that they hope to place into small, one-inch wide spheres and shoot from a satellite, thus creating artificial meteor showers anytime their paying customers want them to.

ALE is said to be teaming with scientists at several universities to produce their synthetic meteor showers, which will reportedly cost more than $8,000 per meteor to fire off. In addition, the ALE representatives said that the process is bright enough to be visible even in big cities or other areas with light pollution – as long as there’s clear weather that night. Lena Okajima, the company’s founder and CEO, told AFP that the meteor showers could be called off up to 100 minutes in advance in the case of bad weather.

Designed for entertainment, but still scientifically beneficial

Naturally-occurring meteor showers take place when space dust and debris travel through the Earth’s atmosphere, heating up along the way and often burning up completely before they can reach the ground, but the artificial meteors would be launched from a microsatellite some 20 inches (50 centimeters) across.

The launch satellite, which AFP reports is currently being developed by the company along with researchers from other groups, would orbit the planet from north to south, at altitudes of roughly 250 to 310 miles (400 to 500 km), for months at a time before it fell back to the Earth and burned up along the way. Its meteorites would be incinerated in the atmosphere, just like real ones.

ALE is not revealing the chemical composition of the formula it plans to use in the pellets, but the firm said that it is considering altering it to create streaks of different colors.

While Okajima said the main purpose of the artificial shooting stars was “entertainment,” said that they “could also be valuable to scientists.” Researchers explained that by analyzing the light of a meteor, they can learn about the temperature, density, and movement of the atmosphere at that altitude. However, real meteor showers are unpredictable, while ALE’s will occur at a predetermined time and place, making them easier to find and study.


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