Whether you saw the movie Gravity or not, you probably already know that space debris can be a big problem. But until you see a visual showing just how ridiculously packed the Earth’s atmosphere is, it is hard to grasp just how much of a problem it really is. To provide you with that visual, the folks over at Orbital Objects have created an interactive globe of space pollution that might just blow your mind – or make you want to invent a giant space vacuum cleaner.
It’s estimated there there are about 20,000 pieces of larger debris (large being at least 2 inches) floating in low orbit around the Earth. That debris can include fragments from satellites or spacecraft , non-functional spacecraft or abandoned launch vehicle stages. In 2008 alone, this debris forced spacecraft like the International Space Station to maneuver on five separate instances in order to avoid collisions.
Orbital Objects allows you see all of that crazy space debris to understand just how crowded the sky really is. The interactive map shows tracked objects only with active satellites showing up in green, inactive satellites in gray and tracked debris in red. The map lets you click around to see the different clusters over different parts of the planet, or the giant ring of satellites orbiting the Earth. While scientists monitor and maneuver to avoid debris, there isn’t really a solid plan for getting rid of all the junk, though some countries have started testing ideas. But just by looking at the map, it’s surprising that Gravity-style space collisions don’t happen more often.