A newly developed online tool shows just how crowded low-Earth orbit has become due to the growing number of space debris. The tool also shows in real-time the near-collisions between space junk objects and active satellites.

The new tool, dubbed as the Conjunction Streaming Service Demo, was developed by Moriba Jah of the University of Texas, who focuses on keeping tracking of orbital debris. He used the data compiled by the U.S. Air Force to monitor the movements of the objects orbiting Earth.

The tool, which is basically an online graph, illustrates the positioning of the space junk objects in real-time. Its Y-axis shows the distances between the space objects while the X-axis keeps track of time.

In the graph, several differently colored markers can be seen. The green dots represent active satellites orbiting Earth while the yellow ones show non-moving objects and moveable satellites. The red dots, on the other hand, represent the space junk objects.

As indicated in the graph, the red dots or floating space debris greatly outnumber the operational satellites. Because of this, near-collisions can be detected between the various objects regularly.

“Things are crisscrossing each other at very high speeds,” Jah told The Verge. “These things are traveling really, really fast and definitely coming close to each other. People need to be aware of that.”

According to Jah, the Conjunction Streaming Service Demo shows the worsening problem of space junk around Earth. As of January this year, the European Space Agency (ESA) reported that there are about 34,000 debris objects in space that are over 10 centimeters wide. In addition, there are about 900,000 objects that around 1 to 10 centimeters wide. As for objects smaller than 1 centimeter, the ESA estimated that these could be about 128 million.

Currently, there are over 2,000 active satellites in space. This number could soon increase exponentially as various private companies such as Amazon and SpaceX launch their own satellites. As noted by Jah, the overpopulation in low-Earth orbit could soon put active satellites at risk of encountering collisions.

“Look at how close these things are getting,” he said. “And that traffic is just going to increase. So the bottom line is that there is definitely an increased risk of collision with that increased traffic coming close to each other.”

An artist's illustration showing the swarm of space debris orbiting Earth. ESA/ID&Sense/ONiRiXEL