The United States’ newest weather satellite – GOES-16 – has returned its first images of our planet, federal scientists announced Monday.
The photos show the weather and the Earth in great detail – at four times the image resolution of existing spacecraft. It’s like “the sky’s high definition,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a statement.
GOES stands for Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite.
“It’s such an exciting day for NOAA,” said Stephen Volz, director of NOAA’s satellite and information service. “One of our scientists from GOES-16 compared this to the first images of a newborn – it’s so exciting for us.
“These images come from the most sophisticated technology ever used in space to predict severe weather on Earth,” he said.
And it’s fast: the satellite can scan the entire Western Hemisphere in just five minutes. “This will revolutionize the way extreme weather forecasting is done,” said meteorologist Ryan Maue of WeatherBell Analytics.
The school bus-sized satellite, known as “GOES-R” when launched in November and now under its new name “GOES-16”, is in a “geosynchronous” orbit of Earth. That means it’s hovering in the same spot above the planet, about 22,000 miles above the equator. It moves as the Earth spins.
In May, NOAA will announce the planned final location for GOES-16. By November 2017, GOES-16 will be operational as GOES-East or GOES-West.
NOAA will use the satellite’s six new instruments to generate new or improved weather, solar and space products.