A Man-Made Meteor Shower Might Open the 2020 Olympics — Here's How They'll Build It

A Man-Made Meteor Shower Might Open the 2020 Olympics — Here's How They'll Build It

The opening ceremony for the 2020 Olympics may feature something we've never seen before.

Japanese company ALE has designed a way to trigger an artificial meteor shower, and now it's bidding to open the next Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The man-made meteor shower will feature 500 to 1,000 "source particles" that will each serve as a mock meteor. The company will launch a satellite into space that's designed to drop the particles once it reaches a certain altitude. Each particle is just a few millimeters across, but once they hit the atmosphere, they'll burn up through a process called plasma emission and put on a spectacular light show. 

It's called the Sky Canvas Project, and the company estimates it will be visible from a 100-kilometer radius. Up to 30 million people in the Tokyo area will be able to watch. 

The company has done some preliminary testing by setting the particles loose in a vacuum chamber and bombarding them with hot gas to simulate the conditions they'll experience when they re-enter the atmosphere. Depending on what material the particles are made of, they glow in different colors.

The company estimates the particles will cost about $8,100 apiece, so that's somewhere around $4,050,000 to $8,100,000 to produce enough particles for the whole show. 

This has uses beyond just a dazzling pyrotechnic show. The company hopes to use the research to demonstrate that old, broken satellites in space can be safely de-orbited and burned up in the atmosphere.