A 0:30 seconds long clip is being widely circulated on social media with the claim that China recently “debuted” an “artificial sun”. Except for the video, these claims do not mention in which province or at what time the alleged launch happened.

On Twitter, the video has been shared by various popular accounts such as RapTv, a website that covers pop culture and music, and by Mr Whale who claims to be a crypto investor.

Indian TV journalist Vivek Bajpai tweeted the video with a Hindi caption.

The video is extremely popular on Facebook as well.

Misleading

We analysed the video and could hear a few people talking in the background. In order to understand the conversation, we reached out to Naomi Wu, a Chinese tech personality. As per Wu, there are two people who can be heard in the video, a man and a woman. The man says, “It has been ignited, it has been ignited” (he says it several times in the video). The rocket is launching right now.” While the woman says, “Can you hear me speaking?” to possibly someone on the phone.

We also noticed that Twitter @BleuZ00m had replied to a handle that shared the video. His reply suggested that the viral video could be a recent rocket launch. The article attached in his reply published on December 23, 2021, reads, “…The Long March 7A lifted off from the coastal Wenchang Satellite Launch Center at 5:12 a.m. Eastern, rising into a broken cloudy sky just after local sunset.” The word “coastal” here is important as it helps us narrow down the province.

We performed a keyword search on the Chinese search engine platform, Baidu, with the help of the TOR browser and found a news report from 2020 talking about a tourism boost in Longlou, a “space town” in the coastal city of Wenchang, South China’s Hainan Province. We came across another report that clearly shows a picture of the beach. All of this information helped us establish that the video was shot in Longlou.

We could not find the original source of the video but we did find another video of the rocket launch on YouTube. This video is shot from a different angle. The description in the video reads, “…A Long March 7A rocket launched the pair from the Wenchang Launch Center at 18:12.

Hence, the viral video being shared shows the launch of the rocket Long March 7A, shot in Longlou, China on December 23, 2021.

Why does it appear like the Sun in the sky?

It is very common for a sphere-like shape to appear on recordings of rocket launches due to over-exposure of light while filming during the evening or at night. We have added an example below.

Is China actually building an artificial sun?

To answer this question, we again used the TOR browser to perform a keyword search on Baidu and came across a report by Xinhua, Chinese state-affiliated media.

As per the report, the experimental advanced superconducting tokamak (EAST), or the Chinese “artificial sun”, achieved a continuous high-temperature plasma operation for 1,056 seconds in its latest experiment conducted on December 31, 2021, the longest time of operation of its kind in the world. The report also adds that the ultimate goal of EAST, located at ASIPP (Institute of Plasma Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences), in Hefei, is to create nuclear fusion like the Sun, using deuterium abound in the sea to provide a steady stream of clean energy. There is no mention of the “artificial Sun” being propelled into the sky.

To summarise, China is indeed working on an “artificial sun” to replicate the nuclear fusion of the Sun to produce clean energy. It is not something that will be launched into the sky. The video that is being dubbed as the “launch” of the artificial Sun is actually a rocket launch recorded from a distance.

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About the Author

Kalim is a journalist with a keen interest in tech, misinformation, culture, etc