This is for a work of fiction that I started five years ago. Clever people from Astronomy Stacks answered several questions for me back then. Now that I am in the final edit of this manuscript, I find I need to complicate my characters' lives a little more. Falling space junk could be just the ticket...if it's believable.


2 Answers 2


Could it perturb?

No and yes. Meteor showers are made of meteroids in orbit around the sun, and the gravity of everything affects them, by the law of universal gravitation. But the meteors orbit in a wide band, and comets are small, so the perturbation would be minimal, and far far less than the perturbation that is caused by almost everything else.

that debris falls on Earth

Meteoroids from meteor showers already fall on earth, regularly, in their millions. A rogue comet won't change that.

and dislodge satellites

No. A meteoroid could disable a satellite if it were to strike one. But it would not dislodge it, meteorids are just too small (sand grain to small pebble sized). There are larger asteroids, but these would smash up any satellite they hit, and most of the remains would continue in orbit.

And although there are a lot of satellites, even if they were all to fall to earth, the risk to an individual would be very small.

  • $\begingroup$ +1 Good answer! Most meteoroids burn up in the atmosphere anyways right? $\endgroup$
    – DialFrost
    Sep 24, 2022 at 7:22
  • $\begingroup$ Thanki you, James K. I don't want to make a worldbuilding mistake. But that sure was a good plot device. I will continue looking up for answers. BTW--my protagonist is a transplant from England to Texas. $\endgroup$
    – Evelyn
    Sep 25, 2022 at 8:10


Mass of a satellite: _000 kg, exceeding 10,000 kg for the biggest comsats.

Mass of a meteor particle: milligrams to possibly nanograms (0.00000_ kg to 0.00000000_ kg). And the populations are exponential: smaller particles outnumber larger ones by a scaling law of a few orders of magnitude, per order of magnitude decrease in size.

In effect, a satellite will outweigh an incoming particle by a factor of 1,000,000 to 10,000,000,000. While the particle will be at hypervelocity, versus the target, the timescale and spatial scale makes this impact relevant to the surface material at the point of impact, not the bulk satellite. Years of space exposure (not days- the timescale of a shower) result in “sandblasting”- crappy-looking paint, loss of surface texture, altered thermal absorptivity/emissivity, and eventually lens clouding.

It’s true that the exceptional particle can (and has) disabled a satellite. Yet, assuming no critical strike (chance hit on a vital part, with no design margin), the odds of a nontrivial (pebble) particle impact are lottery-like for the reason given above.

Terrestrial experience and terrestrial habits lead to terrestrial notions, not space values: projections of terrestrial concepts (precipitation, beaches, seaspray, etc.) that are fallacious, ridiculous, and ultimately harmful to mission design and execution. It is the burden of all spacecraft engineers, operators, planners, etc. to un -learn terrestrial parroting/knee-jerk-ing and re -learn relevant, valid, and productive engineering, operations, and planning. This includes the human habit of thinking numerically, not logarithmically.

All metaphors are flawed, some metaphors are useful (some of the time, in some of the situations). The term “meteor shower” is a nice, short English phrasing but a sad design concept if actually taken literally. I won’t bother calculating the years (likely centuries to possibly millenia) it would take for the strongest meteor ‘shower’ to even approach the mass flux of the briefest drizzle.


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