A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) high-resolution weather satellite launched on November 19 from Cape Canaveral have sent back its first images of the Earth from a geostationary orbit of 22,300 miles above the planet’s surface.
The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite, known as GOES-16, is the first of four next-generation weather satellites, all of which will use cutting-edge technology to yield better, more accurate predictions, especially for severe weather.
Together, the four-satellite project is known as GOES-R. Each will hover over a specific part of the Earth and continuously monitor that area’s weather.
GOES-16 can capture a whole-Earth view every 15 minutes at a rate five times faster than the current GOES satellites now in use.
Its first images were taken on January 15 by the satellite’s Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) instrument, which has a total of 16 available spectral channels, two visible, 10 infrared and four near-infrared.
They show Earth’s entire Western Hemisphere at four times the resolution of previous GOES satellites.
Among the images is an updated whole Earth “Blue Marble” photo.
In addition to the stunning Earth images, GOES-16 also captured a view of the Moon, which it uses for calibration.
“This is such an exciting day for NOAA! One of our GOES-16 scientists compared this to seeing a newborn baby’s first pictures–it’s that exciting for us,” NOAA Satellite and Information Service director Stephen Volz said in a statement.
“These images come from the most sophisticated technology ever flown in space to predict severe weather on Earth. The fantastically rich images provide us with our first glimpse of the impact GOES-16 will have on developing life-saving forecasts.”
GOES-16’s high-resolution images will be capable of distinguishing various atmospheric conditions, including clouds, water vapor, smoke, volcanic ash, and ice, as well as tracking lightning to a resolution of approximately six miles.
NOAA plans to announce whether GOES-16 will ultimately be GOES-East or GOES-West this spring, and it will become fully operational in November. The second of the four satellites, GOES-17, currently undergoing environmental testing and scheduled for a March 2018 launch, will cover the other position.
With a total of six science instruments, GOES-16 can study not just Earth’s weather, but solar and space weather as well.