China Satellite Debris in Google Earth

April 21, 2008 — Leave a comment

I was presenting this week’s Astrolunch talk at university. I chose to discuss space debris, and this included a quick overview of the Chinese missile test last year, which create a huge cloud of fragmented debris, much of which is still orbiting the Earth. In January 2007, China launched a surface-to-orbit missile that destroyed a satellite named Fengyun 1C. The act was internationally condemned, though of course no one really punished them.

You can see the debris in this screenshot. Each little Chinese flag is a piece of the satellite that remains in orbit.


If you want to track this debris yourself, you can do so in Google Earth using this handy KMZ file that I’ve created. It uses the same code as my previous efforts for tracking the ISS on Google Earth and tracking satellites on Google Earth in general.


Also, if you’re interested in the talk I gave, you can download the PDF of ‘Space Debris’.

I wonder if this post will be visible through the Great Firewall of China?

UPDATE: The data used for this Google Earth feed comes directly from NORAD, who provide tracking data for most satellites and other orbiting bodies. I should stress that this only shows the trackable debris. This is only  a percentage of what is up there. Some objects are too small to be tracked by radar and so do not appear.

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