This interactive 3D map of every object orbiting Earth is absolutely engrossing

Ever since the Soviet Union launched the Sputnik 1 in 1957, the human race grew an immense infatuation with shooting just about anything it could into orbit of the Earth. Today, with nearly 60 years of this behavior under our belt, the skies just outside Earth’s atmosphere have become quite congested.

Want some proof?

James Yoder, an incoming freshman at the University of Texas Austin, just published a site detailing every satellite, busted rocket, and piece of space junk currently orbiting Earth; and the finished product is utterly incredible. A simple trip to reveals an astounding map of the roughly 20,000 pieces of debris floating in space, as well as information pertaining to its launch year, velocity, altitude, and inclination. Clicking on any of the thousands of available dots reveals such information, and also displays the object’s orbiting flight path. Sandra Bullock would have been wise to check the site before suiting up in Gravity.

To make it easier to navigate — and wildly addicting — Yoder categorizes each piece of debris into three separate categories: red for satellites, blue for rocket bodies, and gray for debris. Looking for the camera Sunita Williams lost during her mission aboard the STS-116 in 2006? It’s likely one of the many gray dots scattered around the map. Though the information doesn’t specifically say what the debris is, the site does allow users to search for an object via its international designator code — because you know, who doesn’t have those handy?

The United States GPS satellite network
The United States GPS satellite network

In addition to offering space object positioning data, also provides independent flight paths of various groups, such as the satellite network responsible for GPS, as well as the massive payload delivery system, Ariane Sylda. When highlighted, the flight paths of these groups look like an incredibly artistic geometric group of roulette curves, or something you’d draw up using a Spirograph. Yoder even includes a group showing off the wreckage stemming from 2009’s Iridium 33 and Kosmos-2251 satellite collision. The hundreds — if not thousands — of pieces of debris cover Earth as if it were a ball of yarn. It’s thoroughly stunning.

Perhaps the website’s most incredible feature is the fact its creator commissioned this interactive, real-time map before even moving out of his parents’ house. An alumnus of the esteemed CRyptonite Robotics team at Cinco Ranch High School, Yoder plans to attend the University of Texas Austin this fall to study Electrical and Computer Engineering. I think it’s safe to say he’ll do perfectly well in the field considering he’s already created one of the most engrossing websites we’ve ever seen.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Write music with your voice, make homemade cheese

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

New Hubble image displays dazzling Messier 28 globular cluster

Messier 28 is a group of stars in the constellation of Sagittarius, located 18,000 light-years from our planet. Thousands of stars are packed tightly together in this sparkling image.
Emerging Tech

Gorgeous image of the Cosmic Bat nebula leaves us starry-eyed

The "Cosmic Bat" nebula has been captured in beautiful detail by the European Southern Observatory. Formally known as NGC 1788, the nebula is two thousand light-years away in a dark corner of the Orion constellation.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Netflix in March, from Buster Scruggs to Roma

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Emerging Tech

We’re going to the red planet! All the past, present, and future missions to Mars

SpaceX isn't the only organization pining to visit the Red Planet. Here's a detailed list of all operational and planned missions to Mars, along with explanations of their objectives, spacecraft details, and mission proposals.
Emerging Tech

Mind-bending model shows Venus isn’t our nearest neighbor — it’s Mercury

Every textbook and table on the internet agrees -- the closest planet to Earth is Venus. But a new mathematical model shows that this is wrong. In fact, the planet closest to us on average is Mercury.
Emerging Tech

A.I.-generated text is supercharging fake news. This is how we fight back

A new A.I. tool is reportedly able to spot passages of text written by algorithm. Here's why similar systems might prove essential in a world of fake news created by smart machines.
Emerging Tech

Desk lamps take on a new task by converting their light to power

What if we could charge devices using light from indoor sources like desk lamps? A group of scientists working on a technology called organic photovoltaics (OPVs) aim to do just that.
Emerging Tech

Body surrogate robot helps people with motor impairments care for themselves

A team from Georgia Tech has come up with an assistant robot to help people who have severe motor impairments to perform tasks like shaving, brushing their hair, or drinking water.
Emerging Tech

Cosmic dust bunnies: Scientists find unexpected ring around Mercury

A pair of scientists searching for a dust-free region near the Sun have made an unexpected discovery: a vast cosmic dust ring millions of miles wide around the tiny planet Mercury.
Emerging Tech

Take a dip in the Lagoon Nebula in first image from SPECULOOS instrument

The European Southern Observatory has released the first image collected by their new SPECULOOS instrument, and it's a stunning portrait of the Lagoon Nebula, a swirling cloud of dust and gas where new stars are born.
Emerging Tech

Robot assistants from Toyota and Panasonic gear up for the Tokyo Olympics

Japan plans to use the 2020 Olympics to showcase a range of its advanced technologies. Toyota and Panasonic are already getting in on the act, recently unveiling several robotic designs that they intend to deploy at the event.
Emerging Tech

Racing to catch a flight? Robot valet at French airport will park your car

Hate searching for parking at the airport when you need to catch a plane? Startup Stanley Robotics recently unveiled a new outdoor automated robotic valet system. Here's how it works.

Bags with brains: Smart luggage and gadgets are making travel smoother

The bag you use to tote your stuff can affect the experience of any trip. In response, suitcases are wising up, and there are now options for smart luggage with scales, tracking, and more. Here are our favorite pieces.