Watch space junk fly around the Earth in real-time

9 Jul 2015

Thanks to our love of putting things into space, we have accumulated a lot of space junk that orbits the Earth every day, and now we can feel guilty for our efforts by watching it cover the Earth in real-time.

We are increasingly being made aware of the amount of space junk that is orbiting the Earth every day. In fact, Dr Lucy Rogers spoke at Inspirefest 2015 about how she is devoting a large part of her life to trying to find ways of collecting and removing it.

Research by the European Space Agency (ESA) shows that there are currently more than 12,000 pieces of space debris larger than 10cm in diameter orbiting the Earth, each of which is quite capable of causing serious damage to craft like the International Space Station (ISS).

And, while organisations like the ESA are busy coming up with solutions from lasers to giant space-junk collectors, one young programmer just wants to see what it actually looks like in real-time.

According to Popular Science, programmer James Yoder has created ‘Stuff In Space’, a website that uses orbital data obtained from the website and a Javascript library called satellite.js to calculate satellite positions.

Stuff In Space screenshot

In addition to active satellites, the data shows what space junk is flying around up there in real-time. At the time of writing, COSMOS 252 DEB — a defunct Soviet satellite — is flying over Ireland.

Space junk is represented by grey dots, while discarded rocket bodies show up as blue and active satellites show as red.

Speaking of why he wanted to put ‘Stuff in Space’ online, the programmer — who hasn’t even started college yet — said in an interview: “I hope people get out of it a better understanding about the huge variety of stuff orbiting over their heads, and maybe learn a bit about how orbits work.

“I personally never realised just how many things are up there until I saw the plotted satellites for the first time.”

Space junk orbiting Earth image, via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic