Litter is an ongoing problem on Earth, but it also appears to be an issue in outer space.
NASA released an animated video simulating what the globe looks like while surrounded by particles of space junk.
Orbital debris constitutes man-made objects floating around Earth that no longer serve any function.
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NASA’s Orbital Debris Program Office estimates there are over 21,000 pieces of garbage larger than 10 centimeters, and approximately half a million pieces between 1 and 10 centimeters in size.
The number of pieces smaller than 1 centimeter floating out there are reportedly over 100 million.
The debris is made up of larger spacecraft parts that were purposely released, such as launch vehicles, down to miniscule paint flecks.
The primary source for large debris is space explosions and collisions. These include the destruction of a Chinese satellite in 2007 and the accidental run-in between American and Russian communication satellites in 2009.
For those concerned about the debris entering the Earth’s atmosphere, it doesn’t pose a major threat. Most particles are burned up upon reentry and those that don’t, typically end up in an ocean or a lightly populated area.
NASA states that on average only one piece of space junk a day has returned to Earth over the past 50 years. So far, no injuries or great damage has been reported.
Currently, the only method of fixing this problem is to not add any more debris than there already is.
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