13,000 satellites around the Earth

Here's a visualization of the 13,000 satellites in orbit around the Earth. Intellectually, I know that these still represent an infinitesimal drop in the overall volume of their orbits, but it sure looks crowded when you see it like this. The Google Earth blog also has a realtime feed of their current positions.

Positions of Satellites Around Earth (via @glinner)


  1. And yet we still don’t have a working geostationary amateur radio satellite in place. The Brazilians can hack FLTSATCOM and use it for CB chatter and the Geermans are planning an amateur radio probe to mars. When do we get our point and talk repeater in the sky?
    Still very cool though.

    1. For those who don’t know current amateur radio sats require you to have an orbit prediction program loaded into your phone, computer, or PDA. A geostationary bird hangs in the same piece of sky day or night so a yaggi antenna on a tripod is all you need.

  2. All those satillites must be helping Global Warming in some small way, since they are blocking some amount of sunlight from reaching the Earth. :-D

  3. The PC/Xbox game Mass Effect has a blurb in its ‘encyclopedia’ about how travel to Earth is somewhat difficult due to all the ‘space junk’ left in orbit around the planet due to humankind’s ‘bootstrap’ space exploration efforts.

    That’s the first thing I thought of when I saw this video.

  4. i remember when getting just one tiny satellite up was a major news event.think about all the flawless launches it took to get those up.

  5. FYI, just because the video says “satellite” does not mean every one of these objects is a refrigerator-sized comsat. You’ll notice several instances of Westford Needles, which are just that: needles. This is the fallout (literally) from a project in the early sixties to create an artificial ionosphere over the Earth. MIT shot some half billion 2 cm copper needles into orbit to facilitate global radio communication. The needles were supposed to come down within three years, but of course, in any collection of half a billion things, there are going to be a few outliers.

  6. If that actually was the actual size of satellites, NASA would have a pretty hard time launching anything without hitting something.

  7. I’ve got a question about geosynchronous sats (the ones that wiggle up and down, rather than being fixed at the equator, but are otherwise about the same distance out as the geostationary ones), that I’ve been pondering since finding J-Track 3D a few months ago.

    If you look at them, you’ll find that on one side of the earth, they’re mostly above the plane of the ecliptic (ie, they’re mostly above the ring of geostationary ones). On the other side of the earth, they’re mostly below it.

    If you accelerate time (which you can do on J-Track 3D), you’ll see that although the satellites whiz round and round, the distribution of satellites (above on one side, below on the other) remains constant.

    Put another way: the point at which the majority of satellites cross through the ascending node is a stationary point relative to the sun.

    Why is this?

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