No, these photos don’t show an 'artificial sun' built by China (though that is a real project)
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Lots of people have been watching and sharing two videos that show an enormous ball of fire on the horizon, claiming that they show an artificial sun created by China. While China does actually have an ongoing project in this vein, that’s not what these videos show.
Turns out the 'sun' in the first video is a Chinese rocket
The first video has been circulating on Twitter since January 9, widely shared by the @AuxGod account. The footage, which shows dozens of people filming what looks like a sun on the horizon, has garnered 6 million views.
The "sun” finally disappears in the sky, leaving a trail of smoke in its wake.
This content has been archived here by the FRANCE 24 Observers team.
Our team ran the video through the search tool InVid WeVerify (check out how by clicking here). We found several longer versions of the video, which had been posted on YouTube in the past. In this version of the video, you can hear spectators say "Huojian fashele", which means “the rocket has been launched” in Chinese. So we started investigating to see if this video might actually show a rocket launch.
China has several rocket launch sites. The only one located near the coast, like the one in the video, is the base in Wenchang.
Our team ran a search for videos of rocket launches in Wenchang, using key words in Chinese. We found a video on the Chinese video platform Bilibili showing the launch of a rocket called Long March 7, which took place the night of December, 23, 2021.
The site shown in the video of Long March 7 corresponds with the backdrop of the first “artificial sun” video. Moreover, smoke let off when the rocket launches takes exactly the same form as the trail left by the so-called sun.
Both videos feature the same coastline with a beach, as well as the same vegetation. Moreover, the smoke let off when the rocket launches takes exactly the same form.
While the FRANCE 24 Observers team didn’t find the exact origin of the video said to show the launch of an artificial sun, audio and visual clues make it very likely that the video shows a rocket being launched from a base in Wenchang, probably on the night of December 23 to 24, documented by the Chinese media.
The second video, supposedly showing the 'sun that changes night to day', is actually a video of a SpaceX rocket launch
Some posts claim that the artificial sun makes it possible to turn night into day.
This content was archived by the FRANCE 24 Observers team.
If you listen to the first seconds of the video, you hear a voice speaking in English, which might be unlikely for a video filmed in China.
If you run the video through a search using InVid WeVerify, then you’ll see the same video posted in April 2021.
The earliest time this video appeared online was April 26 when it was posted on the social network Imgur titled "The brightness of a SpaceX launch".
We did a few other searches using the same key words and found the video posted on TikTok by a number of users, including this account that shares posts about space. The earliest post is from April 23.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Crew Dragon Endeavor capsule and the Crew-2 did indeed launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 23 according to a press statement put out by the US space agency, NASA. French astronaut Thomas Pesquet made his second trip into space on this flight.
So, it turns out that this video actually shows a rocket launch that took place some time ago in Florida and isn’t linked to a recent event in China.
But, turns out, the artificial sun project really does exist
While these videos don’t have anything to do with an artificial sun in China, as their captions claimed, it turns out that is a real project.
A research facility in Chengdu, in southeastern China, which specialises in nuclear fusion reactors, was able to maintain a temperature of 120 million degrees Celsius for just over 17 minutes. Beijing confirmed that the experiment topped the world record in early January 2022. China has three facilities dedicated to similar experiments around the country.
The aim of these experiments is to harness the power of nuclear fusion to provide power for several towns in China. This would also produce less waste than nuclear fission.
It’s called an “artificial sun” because it imitates the nuclear fusion that lights up the real sun. There is a similar project going on in France in a place called Cadarache in the Bouches-du-Rhône region. There’s more in the video, below.