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The Earth Is Surrounded By A Great Swirling Vortex Of Trash

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Just what are all those tiny, swirling dots swooping gracefully around the Earth? Are those pinprick points the ghosts of far away stars? Perhaps they are the gaseous remains of some far away nebula? Or, maybe, it's just a giant orbital swarm of trash.

NASA has put together a visualization showing a 3D view of how space junk moves around us, and it's lovely — until you start thinking too hard about just what it is.


According to NASA's Orbital Debris office, whose job it is to track just what's up there, there are over 21,000 pieces of space junk larger than 10 cm and about half a million pieces between 1 - 10 centimeters. When you go even smaller than that, NASA estimates the number jumps to about 100 million individual pieces, which include everything from purposely released spacecraft parts to chips of paint flecked from the side of satellites by the pressures of space.