For a story I am writing, the Earth gets ejected from the solar system. In one of my previous questions I asked if we get to keep the Moon - seems like we would not only lose her, we would lose all low Earth orbit satellites as well.

I am assuming that as truth, so suppose at least half of all LEO satellites deorbit to a suborbital trajectory in the space of a couple hours - would there be any visible effects on the upper atmosphere? Would it look like a meteor shower, or like a lot of meteorites falling at once? Or a mix of both?

For this question I am ignoring all the other satellites that will not burn in the atmosphere. I have seen videos of satellites burning up, but it is always a single vessel and usually a small one. Would thousands of those falling at once compose into a few, very visible fiery stripes on the sky? Are there some big ones that end up hitting ground?

  • $\begingroup$ Our moon is very weakly bound (extremely far out compared to all other large moons in the Solar system, about equally bound to the Sun as to Earth). This is very much not true of LEO satellites. $\endgroup$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Oct 15, 2021 at 19:03
  • $\begingroup$ @GrumpyYoungMan that could be the start of an answer :) $\endgroup$ Oct 15, 2021 at 19:45
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    $\begingroup$ When people's satellite TV's will go dark, that would be very visible even for those who never look up. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Oct 15, 2021 at 20:01
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    $\begingroup$ I don't have enough time to work out the plausibility of my belief, but I suspect you'll have a spectacular light show along one longitudinal arc where the motion of the Earth causes all the satellites to bunch up and enter (not quite at the same time, but basically all in the same place). Everywhere else I suspect will experience the occasional "falling star" effect. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Oct 16, 2021 at 15:10
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    $\begingroup$ For an approximation of how many burn, draw a cylinder pointing prograde with a cross section equal to the Earth. Count the satellites, that's about how many burn, the rest escape. It is not exactly the satellites in the cylinder that burn, though--some satellites about to enter will come down, some about to leave will escape. Earth's orbit will end up cleaner than before Sputnik. $\endgroup$ Oct 16, 2021 at 23:56

1 Answer 1


Skimming through what little photo and video footage exists of previous satellite reentries may be helpful. Examples include:

Judging from something like those, the reentries would be visible, even during daylight, but not that flashy. Somebody not specifically looking at the sky probably wouldn't notice them.


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