Video allegedly showing China’s ‘artificial sun’ going up in the sky is actually of rocket launch

‘Artificial sun’ created in a tokamak magnetic fusion energy reactor cannot be launched into the sky

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Claim: A video shows an ‘artificial sun’ created recently by China after successful experimentation going up in the sky during a launch event.

Fact: The video is actually of a rocket launch event. The ‘artificial sun’, which was created in a superconducting tokamak magnetic nuclear fusion energy reactor, cannot be launched into the sky.

On 10 January 2022, Facebook user ‘Malik Shazain Awan’ shared a video allegedly showing the launch of an ‘artificial sun’ created by China, with the following caption:

“استغفراللہ
🔴 چین نے مصنوعی سورج کا کامیاب تجربہ کرلیا،
 چین کا 1 ٹریلین ڈالر کا ‘مصنوعی سورج’
[I seek forgiveness in God
China successfully tests artificial sun,
China’s 1 trillion dollar ‘artificial sun’]”

The video was watched 750 times. It was also reshared in the form of standalone clips by multiple Facebook users and pages, alongside the claim that the white-hot ball of energy seen going up in the sky is an ‘artificial sun’ created by Chinese scientists.

Fact or fiction?

Soch Fact Check used six screenshots taken at different time intervals in the video to identify the source of the clip.

Soch Fact Check used six screenshots taken at different time intervals in the video in question. Some screenshots were also enhanced using Adobe Photoshop

One of the screenshots turned up a story by The Washington Post about the Long March 5B rocket’s launching event.

Soch Fact Check then found that China conducted 50 Long March rocket launches in 2021.

The image accompanying the story by The Washington Post about the Long March 5B rocket’s launching event. Image credit: Pu Xiaoxu via AP, Copyright: Xinhua

In response to one of the viral tweets about the clip (the tweet is now unavailable but it has been archived), Twitter users @mrchan and @BleuZ00m shared an article published by SpaceNews, which contained a video of the Long March 7A rocket’s launch event.

Soch Fact Check looked for rocket launch videos using the search term “Long March 7A” on YouTube and found two clips — here and here — of the event. Both were shared on 23 December 2021.

The first video is a live-stream of the rocket launch posted by RocketGyan, a YouTube channel with close to 12,000 subscribers that posts “all Rocket Launches that happen in the space industry Hosted live with me [channel owner] and other space related videos”. The video caption states that the Long March 7A rocket carried “a classified satellite to orbit”.

The caption of the second video — posted by ‘Chinese Forces,’ a YouTube channel with over 6,450 subscribers run by Gatling Su that shares “news from Chinese military and technology industry” — cites the location as the Wenchang Launch Center in Wenchang, Hainan, China. The Center has become one of the most popular sites to watch rocket launches.

Soch Fact Check also reached out on social media to Hillary Tan and Shawn Ho, two individuals who speak fluent Chinese, to verify what the people in the video are saying. According to Tan and Ho, people can be heard saying at different intervals, “The fire is lit,” and “The rocket is being launched.”

As it launches, one person says, “Ahh it launched,” and other people can be heard exclaiming in awe. Towards the end of the video, a woman says she “can hear the sound of the rocket”, and a man agrees with her.

Soch Fact Check also took screenshots from the two YouTube videos mentioned above and compared these with screenshots from the viral video allegedly depicting the ‘artificial sun’ launch. As can be seen in the graphic below, it appears the location in the videos is the same based on the angle with which the rocket can be seen going up in the air and the plume of smoke it leaves behind.

A comparison of screenshots from two YouTube videos of the Long March 7A rocket launch event and the viral video

According to the SpaceNews article mentioned above, the Long March 7A rocket was carrying “a pair of Shiyan-12 test satellites into geosynchronous transfer orbit”.

As for why the rocket looks like a round glowing object, almost like the ‘artificial sun’ it has been mistaken as, rocket launches emit a great deal of light due to the release of high-pressure gases during combustion reactions. This means that images of launches taken on mobile phone cameras tend to be highly exposed, with the rockets looking like round glowing objects.

The ‘artificial sun’ experiment conducted by China did not result in the creation of a product that can be launched into the sky. The experiment was carried out in a nuclear fusion research facility called the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST). The reactor reached 70,000,000°C (70 million degrees Celsius) — a temperature five times hotter than the real sun — and maintained it for 1,056 seconds, approximately 17.6 minutes, according to Chinese state media agency Xinhua News.

Xinhua News reported that the EAST’s ultimate goal “is to create nuclear fusion like the Sun, using deuterium abound in the sea to provide a steady stream of clean energy”.

Virality

Soch Fact Check conducted a CrowdTangle analysis using the following search terms:

  • “China artificial sun”
  • “مصنوعی سورج چین [Artificial sun China]”
  • “چین مصنوعی سورج قیامت نشانی [China artificial sun doom’s day sign]”
  • “چین سورج قیامت [China sun doom’s day]”
  • “china artificial sun west sign qayamat”

The first search term turned up 3,330 posts on Facebook that garnered over 520,000 interactions, whereas, on Instagram, there were over 250 related posts with 2,337,163 interactions. It is worth noting that the search term “China artificial sun” does not lead exclusively to false or misleading posts since the term is fairly generic; however, false and misleading posts are included among the results.

The second search term, which also does not lead exclusively to false or misleading posts , turned up close to 500 posts with over 81,000 interactions.

The third search term turned up six posts that gained 33 interactions, while the fourth and fifth terms received 208 interactions across 22 posts and 683 interactions across two posts, respectively.

The captions accompanying many of the Facebook posts included references to the signs of the Day of Judgement (see here, here, here, and here).

A video posted by Facebook page ‘CSS Times’ was shared more than 1,000 times and watched by over 145,000 people. Videos posted here, here, and here were watched over 13,000, 11,200, and 7,300 times, respectively.

On Instagram, the first search term yielded multiple posts, of which two of the most popular ones were by verified accounts @linkuptv and @jamesjeffersonj and received more than 134,000 and 123,000 views, respectively. A post by @liljupiterr received the most views at 194,000 views, while a post by @anokhay.official from Pakistan got close to 50,000 views. 

The second search term turned up two popular Instagram posts by Parhlo Urdu and Parhlo Official.

Conclusion: China did not launch an ‘artificial sun’ into the sky; the country conducted an experiment wherein a nuclear fusion energy reactor called EAST reached a temperature of 70,000,000°C, five times hotter than the real sun, and maintained it for approximately 17.6 minutes. The video purportedly showing the launch of the ‘artificial sun’ is, in fact, of a rocket launch event at the Wenchang Space Launch Site.

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