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It’s not just here on earth that humans leave litter and garbage scattered across the land and sea. Also up in space there are the discarded remnants of the human race. A lot of remnants, in fact. It’s thought that since the launch of the first manmade satellite, Sputnik 1 in 1957 by the Soviet Union, there has accumulated around 170 million pieces of space junk (measuring less than 1cm) that’s now orbiting our planet.

This debris is the focus of a project called Adrift by artists Cath Le Couteur and Nick Ryan, which includes the short film The Secret World of Space Junk (above). Along with this the duo have also created a sound installation, an electromechanical instrument that tracks the position of 27,000 pieces of space junk which it then transforms into sound as they pass overhead.

You can also follow three piece of debris on Twitter, one of which is a spacesuit pushed out into space from the ISS in 2006. You can tweet @ them and they’ll inform you where abouts in space they are in real-time.

“More than 500,000 small pieces are currently orbiting earth and a further 27,000 pieces are larger than 10cm and being tracked by NASA and the US Department of Defense.” says the project’s website. “Each piece is travelling at speeds of up to 17,500mph. There are also millions of smaller, untracked pieces left behind by space missions which could damage satellites or spacecraft and cause friction between nations.”

The pair have also made an 11 minute documentary, also called Adrift, which not only looks at the dangers of space junk but also its beauty.

“This is the most beautiful junk in the world.” says Le Couteur. “And that’s what is particularly fascinating: we’re showing both a floating museum of space exploration and a real growing environmental hazard. This is an issue that is well known and a cause for concern in science circles but less known outside. We are hoping that Adrift will open people’s eyes to the spectacle that’s occurring not very far above our heads.”

Learn more about the project at its website here. Check out some tweets from the project below and watch the doc at the bottom of this post.

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