Space junk can fall out of the sky - and you'd be surprised how often it happens

Louis Dor
Wednesday 29 November 2017 16:00
Science and Tech
Picture:(Paolo Nespoli - ESA/NASA via Getty Images)

Last Friday, a few Canadians in Saskatchewan caught a glimpse of a rocket booster from the Cygnus spacecraft re-entering the atmosphere after resupplying the International Space Station.

These events are actually surprisingly common - we just don't see them on the internet all the time.

Large parts of the planet are covered only by ocean, and huge swaths of land remain uninhabited. Even when space debris does falls near inhabited lands often the communities won't or can't capture and share these moments.

For example, Popular Science reports that the Iridium 8 satellite, which went into orbit on 5 May 1997, crashed down on 24 November this year probably somewhere over the Arctic - but no one knows where because no one saw it.

You can get an idea of how much debris orbits our planet by looking at a simple interactive like Stuff in Space.

There are tens of thousands of objects up there, and hundreds come down every year. There were 200 objects re-entering the atmosphere in 2016 and over 600 in 2014.

However, you probably shouldn't worry about it. Your odds of getting hit are about one in a trillion.

Put it into perspective - lightning strikes all the time all around the world and you don't worry about getting hit by that.

The only person who we know has ever been hit by space junk is Lottie Williams, in Tulsa, Oklahoma who was hit by a 6-inch-long piece of rocket.

She walked away from the collision unharmed.

HT PopSci

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