PHOTOS: Satellite Collision Creates Dangerous Debris

PHOTOS: Satellite Collision Creates Dangerous Debris
<< Previous   4 of 5   Next >>
In 1978 Russia's Cosmos 954 satellite—a predecessor of the Cosmos satellite that collided with a U.S. Iridium orbiter on January 10, 2009—failed to reach a high enough orbit and came speeding back through Earth's atmosphere, creating a brilliant fireball.

Soon after this optical-sensor image was taken, the satellite crashed into northwest Canada, littering the area with thousands of pieces of radioactive debris.

When satellites quit working, they can continue to circle Earth for years. But without thrusters to maintain the required speed, defunct satellites in low orbits can eventually get pulled down by Earth's gravity.

More Photos in the News
Today's 15 Most Read Stories
Free Email Newsletter: Photo of the Month
—Picture courtesy USAF North American Aerospace Defense Command
 
NEWS FEEDS    After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed. After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.

Get our news delivered directly to your desktop—free.
How to Use XML or RSS




 

50 Drives of a Lifetime

Listen to your favorite National Geographic news daily, anytime, anywhere from your mobile phone. No wires or syncing. Download Stitcher free today.