Home Environmental Watch The Growth Of Space Junk Orbiting Earth

Watch The Growth Of Space Junk Orbiting Earth

By Miriam KramerMashable, SouthFloridaReporter.com, Dec. 27, 2015 – There’s a lot of space junk orbiting the Earth these days.

Right now, NASA is tracking about 20,000 pieces of spent rocket parts, defunct satellites and bits of debris larger than a softball that are hurtling around the planet at more than 17,000 mph. There are also about 500,000 objects the size of a marble or larger being tracked as they orbit Earth and millions more that are too small to track, according to NASA.

Those huge numbers can be hard to visualize, but a new video and interactive produced by a scientist and released by the Royal Institution of Great Britain gives viewers a little taste of just how crowded it has become up above the planet since the first satellite made it to orbit.

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The scientist — Stuart Grey, a lecturer at University College London — created the visualization to show how the amount of space junk orbiting Earth has changed since Sputnik, the first satellite, launched in 1957. Since then, the number of spent rocket parts and other objects circling Earth has grown by leaps and bounds.

Scientists on the ground track those pieces of space junk to be sure they aren’t on a collision course with any satellites still in use.

Space junk is a major problem for space agencies and governments around the world. Even the millions of tiny bits of debris that aren’t currently tracked could potentially wreak havoc if they collide with communications satellites and other spacecraft orbiting Earth.