Bad Astronomy

Track satellite debris with Google

Rob at Orbiting Frog is too cool: he has software that allows you to track the debris from the recent satellite collision using Google Earth. You can follow the debris in real time! That is so excellent.

This makes me wonder why the guys at NORAD and other trackers didn’t know this collision was going to happen before it occurred. There are a lot of satellites, and the orbits change, but it seems simple enough to write code that allow you to see if any two satellites come within, say, a kilometer of each other at any given time. You could run that every time you update the orbital parameters of the satellites. So I’m scratching my head about that. Anyone out there in BABlogland have any inside knowledge?