space debris Photo: Michael Najjar/IAS

The image above was created by German photographer Michael Najjar, a "certified civilian astronaut" who has a ticket to go to space on board Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo in 2014. He titled the piece "Space Debris I," and created it with the help of the Institute of Aerospace Systems at the Braunschweig University of Technology, the world's leading institute for space debris tracking. “Based on a data archive, each spherule in the picture represents a real existing object orbiting in space," Najjar says. As you can see, space isn't so empty, at least not in Earth's orbit.

All this debris can make environmentalists cry ...

space pollution

... but of course it's more than that. It could also lead to the kinds of problems depicted in the film "Gravity" (which I loved, by the way). The film is fiction, of course, but the more crap that's in orbit, the more chances that the plot could become reality.


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Michael Graham Richard ( @Michael_GR ) Michael writes for MNN and TreeHugger about science, space and technology and more.

Here's every known piece of space debris orbiting Earth
Space isn't so empty, at least not in Earth's orbit — as you can see in Michael Najjar's amazing photo.