Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Scientists Find New Method to Track Space Junk in Daylight

Scientists Find New Method to Track Space Junk in Daylight

Friday, 7 August, 2020 - 06:30
Nighttime view from the International Space Station shows the Atlantic coast of the United States in this NASA handout image dated February 6, 2012. REUTERS/NASA/Handout

Scientists said they had discovered a way to detect space debris even in daylight hours, which could facilitate space observations, reported a new study published in the Nature Communications journal.

Since 1957, over 9000 satellites and around 23,000 objects larger than 10 centimeters have been sent to the orbit, and all of them rove at a speed of more than 20,000 km/h, showed the data by the US army.

According to AFP, at this speed, any collision could destroy a satellite and leave a large amount of wreck. Most of the junk that exist today in space was produced by shattered rockets, in addition to the destruction of a Chinese satellite with a rocket in 2007, and the collision of a Russian military satellite wirh a communication satellite in 2009.

The problem is expected to aggravate with the increase of launching operations aimed at sending more objects to the orbit.

Using lasers, it is possible to detect the debris from the ground. But until now this method only worked for a few hours around twilight, when the detection station on Earth is in the dark and the debris still illuminated by the Sun.

A team of researchers based in Austria now think they've extended the window in which the space junk is visible using a combination of a telescopic detector and filter to increase the contrast of objects as they appear against the sky. Overall, the new technique could increase observation times of space junk from Earth from six to 22 hours a day.

Co-author Michael Steindorfer, from the Austrian Academy of Sciences Space Research Institute, told AFP the technique "could significantly contribute to improving orbital predictions in case of collision warnings or for future space debris removal missions."

Editor Picks