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The most crowded place in space. What’s happening at 1,200 km above Earth’s surface

Pieces of spacecraft and satellites form a cloud of space debris around Earth, and the crowdest place is 1,200 km above Earth’s surface. A new video shared by ESA shows how man-made space objects are spread throughout our Galaxy.

Starting from an altitude of around 600,000,000 km, where probes fly past gas planets, Jupiter and Saturn, to altitudes of just over 100 km, where the uncontrolled re-entry starts, an estimated number of 700,000 objects larger than 1 cm and 170 million objects larger than 1 mm are expected to reside in Earth orbits.

According to ESA, the number of objects is growing from up to 10,000 km away from Earth and closing in. This is the region of the low Earth orbits, where two-thirds of all large man-made objects are concentrated. Here, about 600 working satellites are surrounded by thousands of defunct satellites and fragments.

Experts say all this material could do serious damage, since the objects travel at speeds up to 14,000 km/h. And what they fear most is a chain reaction, where objects break apart in collisions and fragments go on to smash into other objects, creating more debris.