Earth could have its own Saturn-like band due to growing threat of ‘space junk’, professor warns

Of the hundreds of millions of pieces of debris floating in space, a significant amount could end up forming a “ring” around Earth, similar to the gas giants of the solar system, a University of Utah professor warned.

The debris is likely giving Earth “its own rings” made of “space debris,” University of Utah researcher Jake Abbott said in a recent interview with the Salt Lake Tribune.

However, Abbott and his team are working on a way to clean up the debris by placing a magnet on the end of a robotic arm and using the magnet’s eddy currents to collect the space debris.

NASA estimates there are at least 23,000 pieces of debris entering low Earth orbit (LEO) that are larger than a softball in orbit, but there are probably 500,000 pieces between 0.4 inches and four inches.

There may be 170 million pieces of space debris smaller than 0.4 inches, the European Space Agency added.

A significant amount of space junk could form a ‘ring’ around Earth, like the solar system’s gas giants, a professor has warned

Saturn's rings are made of ice and rock, varying in size, and may be remnants of ancient comets, asteroids or celestial satellites

Saturn’s rings are made of ice and rock, varying in size, and may be remnants of ancient comets, asteroids or celestial satellites

More than 27,000 pieces of orbital debris are being tracked by the global sensors of the Department of Defense’s Space Surveillance Network.

Four planets in the solar system already have rings: Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Uranus.

Saturn’s rings are made of ice and rock, varying in size, and may be remnants of ancient comets, asteroids or celestial satellites. NASA notes.

The rings orbiting Jupiter and Neptune are significantly fainter and made up mostly of dust.

It’s possible that Jupiter’s rings are the result of a number of meteor strikes that hit the planet’s 79 moons, according to the Royal Museums Greenwich.

NASA explains that LEO is now seen as “the world’s largest garbage dump,” adding that it is expensive to dispose of the space debris due to the magnitude of the problem — there could be as many as 6,000 tons of material in low Earth orbit.

A lot of space debris can reach extremely high speeds (in some cases 18,000 mph or seven times the speed of a bullet), “impacting even a small piece of orbital debris with a spacecraft or hitting Earth “can cause major problems,” he added. NASA to it.

Abbott is working on a way to clean up the more than 6,000 tons of materials in low Earth orbit, the majority of which are flying at speeds of 15,700 mph.

“Most of that shit is spinning,” Abbott told the news station. “Reach out to stop it with a robotic arm, you’ll break the arm and create more debris.”

To clean it up, he and his team are working on a way to use magnets to remove LEO from all the debris, using eddy currents.

“We’ve basically created the world’s first tractor beam,” Abbott explained.

‘It’s just a matter of technique now. Building and launching.’

In a study posted on Nature last monthAbbott and his team note that a magnet must be placed at the end of a robotic arm.

University of Utah researcher Jake Abbott tries to use magnets to pull low Earth orbit from rubble

University of Utah researcher Jake Abbott tries to use magnets to pull low Earth orbit from rubble

“We’ve basically created the world’s first tractor beam,” Abbott said in an interview earlier this month. ‘It’s just a matter of technique now. Build and launch’

As the magnets spin, they activate the eddy currents (electric currents shaped like eddies) that create their own magnetic field.

Ultimately, the space debris can be collected using the magnetic field of the currents.

“Using dimensional analysis, combined with multiphysical numerical simulations and experimental verification, we characterize the forces and torques generated on a conductive sphere in a rotating magnetic dipole field,” the authors wrote in the summary of the study.

Other groups are also working to ease the burden caused by the massive amounts of debris, mostly made up of satellites and spacecraft.

Space startup Privateer, backed by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, told that the company is trying to track space debris in orbit and predict how it will act and where it will go, to make space safer for all countries.

“The idea is to make space more transparent and predictable by knowing where space junk will be in the next few minutes and hours,” said Moriba Jah, the company’s chief scientific adviser, in a telephone interview.

“We’ll be able to predict how two objects from two different governments will act before there’s reason to worry.”

Earlier this month, Russia blew up one of its own satellites, and the resulting debris nearly hit the International Space Station.

The country may have used an A-235 PL-19 Nudol “satellite killer” missile, US analysts believe, to destroy Cosmos 1408.

When Cosmos 1408, a defunct spy satellite launched in 1982, was destroyed, it resulted in a field of 1,500 pieces of debris that endangered the crew of the ISS.

Some analysts have suggested that the space debris left behind after the explosion will damage spacecraft for years, possibly decades.

The satellite orbited about 300 miles from the Earth’s surface at the time, creating a debris field between 270 miles and 320 miles from the surface.

ISS orbits about 260 miles from the surface, although it was just under 250 miles from the surface at the time of the incident, meaning debris passed over it about 20 miles as their orbits crossed.

Astronauts aboard the ISS were instructed by Houston Mission Control to escape to safety in the ship’s escape pods.

None of the seven astronauts aboard the ISS was injured.


There are an estimated 170 million pieces of so-called ‘space junk’ – left behind after missions that could be as large as spent rocket stages or as small as paint flakes – in orbit alongside about $700 billion (£555 billion) worth of space infrastructure.

But only 27,000 are tracked, and with the fragments capable of traveling at speeds of more than 27,777 mph (27,000 kmh), even small pieces of satellites can seriously damage or destroy.

However, traditional gripping methods don’t work in space, as suction cups don’t work in a vacuum and temperatures are too low for substances like tape and glue.

Grippers based around magnets are useless because most of the debris in orbit around the Earth is non-magnetic.

About 500,000 pieces of man-made debris (artist’s impression) are currently circling our planet, consisting of disused satellites, scraps of spacecraft and used rockets

Most proposed solutions, including debris harpoons, require or cause vigorous interaction with the debris, which could push these objects in unintended, unpredictable directions.

Scientists point to two events that have seriously exacerbated the problem of space debris.

The first was in February 2009, when an Iridium telecom satellite and Kosmos-2251, a Russian military satellite, accidentally collided.

The second was in January 2007, when China tested an anti-satellite weapon on an old Fengyun weather satellite.

Experts also pointed to two sites that have become worryingly cluttered.

One is low Earth orbit used by satellites, the ISS, China’s manned missions and the Hubble telescope, among others.

The other is in geostationary orbit and is used by communications, weather and surveillance satellites that need to maintain a fixed position relative to Earth.