A Quick Guide to Understanding Orbital Debris Reentry Predictions

Wondering if you’re in a debris path? Here’s what all those blue and yellow lines mean.

Reentry prediction for the Long March 5B rocket body from the Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies. Credit: The Aerospace Corporation
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The prediction for the Long March 3B rocket body from the Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies that reentered on May 3. Credit: The Aerospace Corporation
  • The blue line shows the orbital path prior to reentry, and each tick mark is a five-minute interval
  • The yellow line is the predicted future path with tick marks at five-minute intervals
  • The text label and satellite icon indicate where the rocket body ultimately reentered
  • The circle around the reentry point is the vicinity in which the reentry could be seen
The ground traces shown in the above image extend the full uncertainty window. Credit: The Aerospace Corporation
This plot shows the history of predictions over time. The dots are predicted reentry date and time, and the vertical bars represent the nominal error of the estimated reentry. The prediction is currently holding steady for Saturday night (US time), and the error bars are shrinking. Credit: The Aerospace Corporation

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