Last fall, the GOES-R satellite launched, promising a huge upgrade in resolution for satellite photos of weather systems. After a few months of calibrations, it has been renamed GOES-16 and is beginning its work.
GOES stands for Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite. And this is the first of a series of four new GOES satellites to be launched in the coming years.
Now, the first photographs of the earth's surface have been released to the public, and they are spectacular. This one shows a view of the entire continental United States at much higher resolution than has been available in the past. The detail and the natural color show up particularly well in the shallow water of the Bahamas.
The International Space Station orbits about 250 miles above the earth. But from its perch in orbit, 22,300 miles above the earth, GOES-16 is high enough to take in the entire western hemisphere.
And when the camera looks over the rim of the earth, it can sometimes spot the moon.
The GOES-16 satellite should become a real boon to weather forecasters. With its greater detail and resolution, it should be able to aid in identifying developing storms before they are producing precipitation and are still invisible on radar.
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A press release from NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, stated:
"It can provide a full disk image of the Earth every 15 minutes, one of the continental U.S. every five minutes, and has the ability to target regional areas where severe weather, hurricanes, wildfires, volcanic eruptions or other high-impact environmental phenomena are occurring as often as every 30 seconds. It covers the Earth five-times faster than the current generation GOES imagers, and has four-times greater spatial resolution, allowing meteorologists to see smaller features."