Artificial shooting star project gets 2nd life through crowdfunding

about eight meteors streaking in the sky in an illustration, with purple tails
Illustration of an exaggerated meteor shower. (Image credit: 4khz via Getty Images)

A Japanese company is restarting its effort to create artificial meteor showers.

Tokyo-based ALE (Astro Live Experiences) had previously planned to create artificial shooting stars in 2020 using its ALE-2 satellite, which launched in December 2019 on a Rocket Lab Electron booster.

But when technical problems held the effort up, ALE pledged back then it would launch a new meteor effort in 2023. Now the company is indeed back with a new venture dependent on crowdsourcing, but with no firm release date on when the shooting stars will appear as that depends on the launch of a new satellite.

Related: Meteor showers 2023: Where, when and how to see them

ALE is asking for community support through a new Sky Canvas Community Club that will sell non-fungible tokens (NFT) tied to exclusive benefits for members. NFTs, however, are closely linked with the cryptocurrency community, which advocates for "alternative currencies" outside of traditional markets.

Cryptocurrencies present substantial risk for investors, including participation in Ponzi schemes, the Securities and Exchange Commission has warned. More broadly, cryptocurrency community members have been linked closely with misogyny and other practices that discourage diversity, discussion and respect, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

ALE did not disclose whether the NFT sale is the sole means of raising revenue at this time, or whether other sources of funding are forthcoming from investors. Nor did they say when they plan to launch the satellite upon which these meteors would be generated. 

CEO Lena Okajima, however, said in a Thursday (March 30) release that her company is committed to "the sustainable development of humankind" and pledges the meteors will be "combining critical climate research with a new form of space entertainment [that] we believe ... can further our scientific understanding of climate change." 

A shooting star of the Geminid meteor shower is pictured on January 3, 2022 in Beijing, China. (Image credit: Liu Shuangxi/VCG via Getty Images)

The company has been promising to make the meteors available for big events. According to their plan, pellets made from "harmless substances" would be shot out of a satellite and then burn up 37 to 50 miles (60 to 80 km) above Earth's surface, creating according to a company FAQ

More practically, the spheres could help collect information from the mesosphere, which is a layer of Earth's atmosphere too high for balloons to study, yet too low for satellites to see at high resolution. The mesosphere has been tagged as an important vector in climate change studies.

Real-life meteor showers usually involve small bits of dust or particles traveling at high speed in our atmosphere, occasionally arriving in clusters when our planet ploughs through the debris left behind from an asteroid or comet.

It is unclear exactly how bright these artificial meteor showers will be. More generally, the space community has warned about the light pollution induced by bright satellites like SpaceX's Starlink, which are already interfering with telescopic observations along with Indigenous astronomy and culture that depends upon clear skies.

Elizabeth Howell is the co-author of "Why Am I Taller?" (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book about space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon:

  • sterling88
    The comments on NFTs are very one-sided. There is concerted effort in making Ethereum more DEI friendly and your suggested articles skew with a narrow perspective. NFTs are a means to fund the space industry as public funding is slashed. Failing to mention the positive aspects of NFTs in this scenario is neglecting the very reason NFTs were suggested in the first place.
  • jamestmallow
    "More broadly, cryptocurrency community members have been linked closely with misogyny and other practices that discourage diversity, discussion and respect, according to the San Francisco Chronicle (opens in new tab). "

    20 % of Americans own crypto as do 1 billion people world wide. You are essentially accusing this many people of being of being racist misogynists. I own a little crypto. Does that make me part of the community ?