There’s an estimated 20,000 pieces of space junk larger than a softball floating around in space. To put this in perspective, Dr. Stuart Grey, lecturer at University College London and part of the Space Geodesy and Navigation Laboratory, made an incredible animation that shows all the known space debris currently orbiting Earth.
The interactive visualization goes through the history of space junk, starting in 1957 with the first man-made object in space – the Russian satellite Sputnik 1. As you click through the decades, you see the accumulation of cosmic clutter and learn the stories behind how it all got there, which include satellite collisions, Chinese missile tests, and marooned rockets.
The project was released as part of the Royal Institution's Advent Calendar, which unveils a new space-related treat every day in the run-up to Christmas, including videos, infographics, and exclusive articles.
You can follow Dr. Stuart Grey on Twitter @stugrey.
[H/T: The Royal Institution]