30 November 2012
Orbital debris, better known as space junk, is the collection of human-made objects in orbit around Earth that no longer serve a purpose. These objects consist of everything from spent rocket stages and defunct satellites to erosion, explosion and collision fragments.
With tons of space debris orbiting low Earth, it is becoming an expensive task for the military to track and eliminate the debris.
Recently, a new study revealed increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the upper atmosphere is allowing satellites and other debris to stay in orbit longer, making it even more difficult to clean up space.
With 29 space-monitoring sensors at their command, the Space Surveillance Network can only track about 30,000 of the more than 500,000 pieces of debris. That’s only 6 percent!
In order to combat these problems of tracking and eliminating space clutter, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) -funded SpaceView project is asking for help from amateur astronomers worldwide.
DARPA hopes to organize the astronomy community into an extension of the U.S. Air Force’s own sky-watchers and track more pieces.