Over the past few days, a viral video supposedly showing the launching of an “artificial sun” into China’s sky has been shared by thousands of social media users online.
The amateur clip, which is half a minute long, shows a crowd gathered on a beach with many holding up phones as they record what appears to be a sphere of light rising into the sky.
China debuted a new artificial sun ‼️😳
— RapTV (@raptvcom) January 10, 2022
But despite it being re-uploaded by several big accounts over the past four days across various platforms, the January 2022 video that claims to show a launch of China’s “artificial sun” is in fact footage of a standard space rocket launch.
A number of existing videos from other nighttime rocket launches depict a similar “fireball” rising into the sky.
The “artificial sun” footage also features the telltale exhaust trail left by the rocket as it shoots up.
The outline of the huge white cloud of exhaust gases appears to match that left by the launch of China’s Shiyan-12-01 and Shiyan-12-02 satellites on board a Chang Zheng 7A rocket on December 23, 2021.
The misleading video seems to be a conflation of existing footage and genuine reports from China over the past decade about record-breaking temperatures achieved in its nuclear fusion reactor.
The latest of those, dated December 30, 2021, cited a team of researchers claiming to have achieved a plasma temperature of 120 million degrees Fahrenheit (around 70 million degrees Celsius) and holding it for 1,056 seconds.
The Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) is in Hefei, deep inside China’s Anhui province, where scientists are attempting to create longstanding nuclear fusion.
Verdict: Did China launch an artificial sun into the sky?
Based on these facts, the verdict is: No, China did not launch an “artificial sun” into the sky.
The clip shows a rocket launch at the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site, China.
If you listen keenly enough, Chinese speakers are heard saying “rocked launched” multiple times in the clip.
Additionally, the doughnut-shaped EAST reactor is sometimes referred to as an “artificial sun” because it replicates the fusion processes that occur within stars.
It is a large, ground-based structure, not a literal “sunlike” object being propelled into the sky, as suggested by the misinformation.