Japanese space startup ALE is the first of its kind — it wants to make on-demand shooting stars for people.
ALE, which stands for Astro Live Experiences, is the brainchild of Lena Okajima, who came up with the idea in 2001 after seeing the Leonid meteor shower.
“I went with friends to see the meteors fall as shooting stars. The way they shot across the skies was very beautiful, and I thought to myself ‘it would be incredible if we could create something like that,’” she told Forbes last year.
Sixteen years later, that idea is bound to become a reality. Okajima, now CEO of ALE, aims to launch the first artificial shooting stars in Japan by 2019.
At its core, ALE is an intersection of science and entertainment. Its main product are “shooting star particles,” which are tiny pellets containing a secret formula that burns with friction.
The pellets are then brought up to the atmosphere via a small satellite, which releases them when it’s showtime. Their composition can be altered so that they burn in different colors.
“It is artificial but I want to make really beautiful ones that can impress viewers,” Okajima told the Daily Mail.
— MOFA of Japan (@MofaJapan_en) March 3, 2017
ALE’s on-demand shooting stars are expected to be better than natural meteor showers, as they would travel much slower — giving viewers more time to appreciate their cosmic beauty, CNN noted.
Okajima, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of Tokyo, has been interested in space since childhood. While she dreamed of becoming a real scientist, she never thought of founding a space company in 2011.
Today, ALE is manned by about 14 people, most of whom are engineers, and half of the staff are women.
ALE targets outdoor festivals, sports games, theme parks and other big events as potential customers. Eventually, Okajima hopes that her company will foster a new cultural venue.
“We want to create a culture of stargazing like the cherry blossom viewing culture in Japan – except in space watching shooting stars,” she told Forbes in a recent interview.
For now, prospective spectators can keep an eye on Okajima’s Sky Canvas Project, which aims to showcase the world’s first artificial meteor shower in early 2019, according to Newsweek.
Check out how the whole thing works: