A little more than 50 years ago, the Soviets launched a satellite called Sputnik into space. Since that time, humanity has launched more than 7000 objects into space. Some of these objects have become defunct, reentered the Earth’s atmosphere, and burned up. Hundreds of others, however, have remained in higher orbits.
With collisions, these objects have now created some 500,000 pieces of space junk, ranging in size from the size of a marble to the size of a softball. As these bits of debris whiz around the Earth at speeds ranging from 7 to 10 kilometres per second, they endanger our existing functional satellites and of course, the space station. Currently, we’re only about to track about 30,000 of these objects.
A new project called SpaceView wants to change that. Aiming to increase our “space situational awareness” or SSA, project backers want to enlist the help of amateur astronomers around the world to create a network of observers to track all of this material. To get involved, you’ll need to register and answer a few questions about your location, equipment, and expertise. SpaceView is considering several options to incentivize participation, including time-sharing on telescopes, upgraded hardware at the astronomer’s site, or financial compensation.