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.

Product Review

Airselfie 2 may as well be a GoPro stapled to a drunk hummingbird

On paper, the Airselfie 2 is marketed as flying photographer that fits in your pocket and snaps selfies from the sky. Unfortunately it’s more like a HandiCam controlled by a swarm of intoxicated bumblebees
Emerging Tech

Rocket Lab steps into spotlight with its first commercial rocket launch

Rocket Lab has deployed multiple small satellites into orbit in its first notable commercial launch. Its New Zealand-born boss said the success means "rapid and reliable access to space is now a reality for small satellites."
Emerging Tech

Ancient continent discovered beneath the ice of Antarctica

Antarctica could be hiding the remains of a long-lost continent. Scientists created a 3D map of the crust beneath the Antarctic ice sheet which shows a similarity to the crust in Australia and India, suggesting they used to be joined.

Get your Sagan on with 60 awe-inspiring photos of the final frontier

Few things instill a sense of wonder quite like the final frontier. The best space photos show off the beauty of Earth, our solar system, and the far corners of the universe. Here are our current favorites.
Emerging Tech

These 11 catastrophic rocket crashes highlight just how difficult space travel is

Space is a tricky business. Failure is common and often results in an explosion, a fiery crash and sometimes the loss of lives. Our video compilation of the worst rocket crashes shows just how catastrophic a mission failure can be.

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: 1-handed drone control, a pot that stirs itself

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

‘Bionic mushroom’ can generate electricity without using fossil fuels

Researchers have come up with a way to produce electricity without fossil fuels using mushrooms covered with bacteria. The mushroom provides a safe environment for special cyanobacteria that generate electricity when light is shone on them.
Emerging Tech

Curiosity rover active and drilling again after computer issue

The Curiosity rover has succeeded in drilling a hole into the tough bedrock that previously defeated it, allowing imaging and collection of samples. The rover had been incapacitated for a few weeks due to problems with its computer.
Emerging Tech

Astronomers discover two rogue planets that do not orbit a star

Astronomers have identified two rogue planets in our galaxy which do not orbit around a star. Unlike the vast majority of discovered planets, these rogue planets drift through space alone with no sun to shine on them.
Emerging Tech

Pairs of supermassive black holes spotted in colliding galaxies

Astronomers have discovered several pairs of supermassive black holes in galaxies that are colliding with each other. These black holes will spiral closer and closer together and eventually merge into one supermassive black hole.
Emerging Tech

Quantum-based accelerometer can locate objects without GPS

Researchers have created a quantum "compass" that allows navigation without satellites. The instrument, technically called a standalone quantum accelerometer, is small enough to be transportable and has a very high level of accuracy.
Emerging Tech

Alibaba’s Singles’ Day sale smashes online shopping records

The annual online shopping frenzy that is Singles' Day this year raked in $30.8 billion, up from $25 billion last time around. The Alibaba-organized event generates more in sales than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.
Emerging Tech

Watch this lab-grown heart tissue beat just like the real thing

A team of researchers in Germany have used stem cells to create a lab-grown human heart tissue which actually beats, as well as responding to drugs in the same way as the real thing.