Look out!

This is scary stuff. Look at all that space junk. I guess it’s a matter of resolution. But it must be quite a job keeping track of it all.


Each dot represents a bit of known space junk that’s at least 4 inches (10 cm) orbiting Earth. Note the distinctive outer ring, known as a geostationary orbit, where weather and communication satellites orbit at the same rate that the Earth turns, allowing them to remain over a single spot on Earth at all times. The concentration of dots obscuring Earth in the center of the image represent debris in low-Earth orbit. In total, some 19,000 manmade objects this size or bigger orbit Earth as of July 2009; most are in low-Earth orbit. Countless smaller objects are also circling the planet. Credit: NASA/Orbital Debris Program Office.

via Image Display.

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14 responses to “Look out!

  1. By my measurements, if each of those black dots was a sphere, it would represent a volume of about 15,000,000 cubic Km.

    Just saying..


  2. Eh? Are you saying that if each object being a minimum of 10cm long was a sphere and all 19,000 were clumped together that you calculate a total minimum volume of 15,000,000km³?

    I get 99.5km³ (but I’ve never claimed to be any good at maths)


  3. My maths, geosynchronous orbit is 84,000 km in diameter. on my screen thats 140 mm, or a scale of about 600 Km per mm.
    if each of those dots is 0.5 mm across on the screen, that represents a diameter of 300 Km.
    Volume of a sphere with a radius of 150 Km = 14,137,166 cubic Km.

    Just pointing out that the diagram is perhaps a little deceptive, space, even the little bit inside geosync orbit, is BIG.


  4. Ah, I see what you are saying. The diagram would look pretty lame if all 10cm objects were to scale though eh? And, to be fair, Ken made a point of saying “I guess it’s a matter of resolution” for those of us with nothing better to do than measure illustrations on our computer screens with a ruler πŸ˜‰


  5. Do you visit medical sites who display illustrations of human anatomy splayed out and leave comments like “oh yeah? there’s NO way someone would survive that!” πŸ˜‰


  6. Thanks for that, by the way, your maths was our by a factor of about 10,000,000,000.


  7. I’m off to have a sulk now.


  8. Hey! My maths was based on each object being a minimum of 10cm long, spherical and all 19,000 clumped together in a ball. I make that 99.5km³ – what do you make it?


  9. 9.95 m^3


  10. I think that’s more like it, Andrew. I get 19 m^3 if considering 19,000 items cube shaped and 10 cm sides.

    Some of the objects are much bigger, of course. Although I think the ISS has to maneuver to avoid even the small ones.


  11. Gah! Quite right. (although I was actually out by a factor of 10,000 which would make your factor of my factor out by a factor of 1,000,000). πŸ˜‰


  12. You still kicking Damian?

    There are 1000,000,000 mΒ³ in a kmΒ³


  13. Doh! I’ll get me coat.


  14. πŸ™‚


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