Report a sighting!

Have you seen one or several bright streaks in the sky? Do you think you have seen the reentry of space debris? Do you wonder whether it could have been a very bright meteor? Would you like to consult a database of recent re-entries in the atmosphere, and possibly report your sighting?

In that case, you need the CORDS (Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies) page on the website of the Aerospace Corporation, which is the only US federally financed R&D center dedicated to aerospace since the start of the space age.

CORDS, which was set up in 1997 by the Aerospace Corporation, is a research center dedicated entirely to space traffic management.
Its main activities, in collaboration with the Air Force, NASA, and other US institutions, consist in monitoring orbital explosions and collisions, preparing forecasts of reentries, and modelling the space debris population.

The CORDS page on Aerospace’s website reports on the space debris problem, and on reentries in the atmosphere (in the “Space Debris and Space Traffic Management” and “Spacecraft Reentry Basics” sections), and discusses the similarities and differences between debris and meteors (“What Does a Reentry Look Like”).

The rich FAQ section (“Space Debris FAQ”) provides clear, succinct, and exhaustive answers which dispel many doubts on the problem of space debris. There is also a section which provides the latest news on Aerospace’s R&D on other aspects of planetary defense.

The page is interactive, and users can report possible sightings by filling in an on-line form, declaring date and place of the sighting and the approximate direction of the light streak, and providing a brief description, as well as their contact details should Aerospace need additional information.

All objects known to have reentered the atmosphere since 2000 are listed in the CORDS Reentry Database (which can be downloaded in .csv or .xlsx format), where the entries can be sorted by name, mission, type of object, launch date, or expected time of reentry.

A strong limit of the website, in our view, is that no mention is made of non-US Space Surveillance and Tracking programs.