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Graph Shows Close Encounters Between Space Junk

via The Verge

Called the “Conjunction Streaming Service Demo,” the graph tool illustrates in real time the sheer number of space objects — out of an assortment of 1,500 items in low Earth orbit — that get uncomfortably close to one another in a period of 20 minutes. While the X-axis keeps track of the time, the Y-axis shows the short distance between two approaching space objects, ranging from five kilometers to the dreaded zero kilometers. On the graph is a series of arcs demonstrating when two pieces of debris rapidly move toward one another, make their closest approach, and then speed away.

No matter when you glance at the tool, there is always an abundance of arcs on the graph. If the arc is extremely stretched, then two objects just had an extra close call. And some get frighteningly close within just a few minutes. In the time I wrote this story, the closest that two objects got to one another was a mere 60 meters. Each arc is color-coded, too, indicating which types of objects are approaching one another. Green arcs indicate two operational satellites that could potentially move out of each other’s way; yellow arcs indicate one movable satellite and one non-maneuverable object; red arcs indicate two dead objects, which have no choice but to continue on their potential crash course. There are a lot of red arcs on my graph.

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