How many satellites are there?

I mean actual satellites, as in, it is orbiting, transmitting or receiving, or otherwise doing something, not just the literal definition of satellite. How many are currently up there?

NASA has a cool Java app, J-Track 3D that lets you track over 900 items in orbit. That probably doesn’t include the secret spy stuff, though. :frowning:

If you include junk broken off from other satelites, and such, there are tens of thousands of objects being tracked as often as possible. Not to mention more thousands of things too small to track.

Bread box sized things fall to earth on a daily basis, large stuff (refrigerator size) pretty much monthly.

The more stuff goes up, the worse the problem gets. There are some folks clammering for deorbiting plans as a prerequisite for putting something above the level where it will decay within a year from atmosphere effects. Not much support from the space industry, though.


Too many.

When out in the woods to get away from it all I gaze to the heavens and…see a shiny object track across the sky. And then another. And another. And another. And…

I was amazed at how many satellites I saw the last time I was in the woods at night. Dozens, maybe more. The sky is getting filled up with stuff.

Oh well. Progress.


You sure those weren’t meteorites? Most satellites are not visible to the naked eye.

I’d assume it’s pretty hard to confuse the two. The meteors (not meteorites) I’ve seen are at varying levels of brightness, are extremely fast, and only last a second or two. The satellites, OTOH, are still fast, but not anywhere near that fast, and just look like a star (often faint) tracking across the sky, and you can watch it for a minute or two.

reference - [thread=329807]How many man made satellites are in orbit?[/thread] (thread from August 2005.)

I know the difference between the two…Meteorites are cool. Satellites are just a moving speck that travels in a line. I also have really good vision, so that might help.


Sorry, your wrong. If you’ve never seen a satellite, it’s worth a look.
Make sure it is a clear night and you are away from city lights. The best time to view is after sunset and before midnight when the sun can still strike the satellite and reflect it back to you. Look for “moving stars” that track cleanly through the sky. They don’t have blinking lights like aircraft. Enjoy!

By the way, Sputnik, the first artificial satellite was only the size of the basketball and millions of people watched it zip by overhead in the late 50’s.

Sorry to continue with the hijack, but I suggest that for a real treat you try and look for an Iridium Flare. Heavens Above has wonderful tracking information for the Iridium constellation as well as the ISS.

For example, here is the Iridium information for Albuquerque in the coming week.