Washington: For a planet that struggles with pollution on land, in the water and in the air, Earth’s orbit, too, is on track to become the junkyard of our solar system, the New York Post reported.
University of Utah researcher Jake Abbott said that “Earth is on course to have its own rings.”
“They’ll just be made of space junk,” he told the Salt Lake Tribune earlier this month.
Four of our solar neighbors — Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Uranus — boast some type of rings, the second of which is the most spectacular example of all, of course. The signature broad rings adorning Saturn are made of ice and rock that have been locked in the planet’s orbit. The same generally goes for the rest, with varying compositions of ice and cosmic dust.
But not Earth’s. Ours is wholly human-made — from discontinued and damaged satellites, rockets and other space-based collisions.
NASA’s Orbital Debris Program Office is tracking some 27,000 hunks of threatening space junk.
The Department of Defense as well as NASA’s Orbital Debris Program Office keeps detailed records of objects that circle Earth. There is currently an estimated 23,000 pieces of orbital debris, NASA’s term for Earth’s highway of space trash, that are larger than a softball, and up to hundreds of millions of more bits at smaller sizes. At speeds of 17,500 mph, those larger chunks pose a serious threat to aerospace travel and research.
Utah researchers are busy studying safe and economic ways to clean up our orbit. Abbott cautioned against proposed methods designed to stop space junk in its tracks.