Images of Earth Surrounded in Space Junk

The European Space Agency (ESA) in Paris has just released computer generated images of space junk floating around Earth. The images are intended to provide a realistic picture of the space junk that is actually floating around in space.

More than 12,000 pieces of space junk is orbiting around Earth. At least 11,500 of those are in low Earth orbit, which means they’re at an altitude of between 800 and 1,500 km. This is where most commercial, military, scientific and navigational satellites operate.

Space junk that orbits at this altitude will eventually burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere, but this could take decades. It’s rare that space junk crashes to Earth but it can (and does) happen. Most of the time space junk lands in the ocean or in isolated stretches of land.

The following image depicts the 11,500 pieces of space junk in low Earth orbit:

The following image depicts this junk from the North Pole:

As well as the space junk orbiting in low Earth orbit, there’s at least 1,147 pieces in geostationary orbit. This is where it orbits in the direction of the Earth’s rotation, at an altitude of approximately 35,786km. This altitude is where telecommunication satellites usually operate.

The following image depicts the 1,147 pieces of space junk orbiting in geostationary orbit:

With more than 600 satellites in orbit, the amount of space junk is increasing by at least 200 per year.

Space junk is usually created through collisions, explosions and lost or discarded material from space flights and rockets.

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11 Responses to “Images of Earth Surrounded in Space Junk”

  1. bemedhruv Says:

    these pics r misleading….if the density of junk was like tht then it could be seen from the earth’s surface as well…and those look more like a million pieces rather than 12000. but thts my opinion…which means its debatable

  2. Bryan Says:

    This looks so wildly out of scale, it is laughable. If this is true then we should see these satellites at night circling the earth like the rings of Saturn. “Photorealistic” might indicate the level of detail (I can see the solar arrays on the satellites) but certainly is not a good indicator of the actual scale. If I can see the solar arrays of one satellite from (I’m guessing from the image) tens of thousands of miles from earth’s surface, well, I’d say I either have the best vision in the universe, our space agenices build satellites the size of Pittsburgh, or perhaps the creators of this image have a proportion disorder!

  3. think Says:

    Obviously it is not to scale. It is for illustrative purposes. Why do people assume that computer-generated images are always to scale?

    The density is accurate if you (correctly) ignore the scale and realize that at 800 km away, a satellite is not visible to an unaided view.

    Check out, see where the ISS is, and perhaps you can grab a pair of binoculars and see the tiny moving dot.

  4. the dude Says:

    this is what the earth will look like in 50 years we’ll F up the space surrounding earth just like we F’d up the earth itself.

  5. Buster Nisbett Says:

    Howdy! I and my husband are incredibly fascinated in the universe, My husband and i really like toward start looking just into the stars inside each night. At this time there can be founda variety of planets just as part of this sun system along with incredible lots more during this big galaxy.Can possibly anybody indicate my sister and me some fine web pages so where we will be able free download a small number of videos and graphics? It might be extremely fine incase everyone posses some good infos to obtain me personally.

  6. Tim Says:

    The numbers may be accurate, but the scale is very misleading. Many of these satellites are depicted as large as the state of Florida. If they were shown in true scale, they would appear little more than dust (if they could be seen at all). What’s more, the fact that most of this space junk will burn up in earth’s atmosphere means the majority of the mess up there is self cleaning.

  7. Tandarts Michiel Says:

    Hopefully others have learned a lot from your article. I know I will!

  8. Mattias Says:

    Our grand kids are going to say…Hey a look a star!…. No just space junk.

  9. Gregory Despain Says:

    intresting post and nice information. thank you for this nice post! bookmarked

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  11. Mat Says:

    I’m very impressed, we ruin the Earth itself each one day.. but this is not enough, we wanted to ruin also the space!! Poor humans!

    Thanks for this interesting post!

    Best wishes