Watch 20,000 Satellites Orbit Earth In Real Time — Simply Amazing!

When you back off from Earth at the Stuff in Space site, satellites look like a swarm of gnats. Many circle the Earth in LEO or low-Earth orbit. Many others orbit in some 22,200 miles (35,750 km) from the planet in the geosynchronous belt, seen as the red-dotted arc here. Geosynchronous satellites go around the planet once every 24 hours, the same time it take Earth to rotate once — basically, they hover over one spot of the planet. James Yoder / Stuff in Space

Stuff in Space is a real-time 3D map of man-made objects in Earth orbit brought to life by James Yoder. Yoder is a robotics guy and an incoming electrical engineering and computing freshman at the University of Texas at Austin. I’ve seen individual satellite simulations in real time on other sites, but this thing’s incredibly comprehensive. Plus it’s live, showing the positions of roughly 20,000 satellites, both living and dead, including debris and rocket stages in real time.

In this zoomed-in view, we see the satellites as colored, moving dots. Red dots are satellites; blue are rocket bodies and gray are debris. Cosmos 1814 is selected. James Yoder / Stuff in Space

Using your mouse’s scroll wheel you can zoom in on one or more satellites and watch them crawl along their orbits. Hover over an object and its name pops up along with an info box listing altitude, orbit, velocity and other particulars. For even more fun, drag the mouse to the left, right, up or down to spin the Earth around and see the web of man-made machines from any perspective.

This is the screen you’ll see when selecting the GPS satellite group from the menu in the upper left of your screen. James Yoder / Stuff in Space

A special feature in the upper left corner of the screen lets you pick a “constellation” or group of particular satellites like the Iridiums and view just that group and its family of orbits. You can either select from a drop-down menu under Groups or type in your own. The search function also works for individual satellites. For example, if you want to see the orbit of the International Space Station, type in ISS and then click on the ISS (Zarya) link in the drop-down.

The website uses data from Space-Track.org and uses the satellite.js library to calculate satellite positions. Stuff in Space is a fantastic teaching and learning tool. Not only will you get a feel for how many objects are buzzing around up there but you’ll also know where they’re at moment to moment. Watch out – it’s addicting!