Commissioned and launched to deliver high-resolution views of Earth that will improve weather forecasting and storm prediction, one of the first things provided by the GOES-16 satellite was a stunning image of the Earth and moon from its place in geosynchronous orbit.
The probe is one of four spacecraft collectively taking part in the 16th Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite mission and known as GOES-R, according to Space.com. It was the first of the four to be launched into space, and will help the program provide what NASA is touting as the best and highest-resolution climate-monitoring views of our planet to date.
Like its predecessors, GOES-16 will use the moon for calibration purposes, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) explained in a statement. The photographs were taken using its Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) instrument from its in orbit 22,300 miles above Earth, along with a total of 16 images of the continental US captured in various wavelengths (two in the visible channels, four in near-infrared and 10 in infrared wavelengths).
Using those channels will allow forecasters to distinguish between differences in the atmosphere such as clouds, water vapor, smoke, ice and volcanic ash, the agency explained. In all, GOES-16 will be able to provide a scan of the continental US every five minutes and an image of the entire Earth every 15 minutes, while scanning the planet five times faster than previous probes.
GOES-16 expected to help deliver ‘life-saving forecasts’
In a statement, Stephen Volz, director of NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service, called it “an exciting day” for the agency and added that one of his GOES program colleagues even compared it “to seeing a newborn baby’s first pictures – it’s that exciting for us.”
The ABI instrument is able to show a full-disc view of the Western Hemisphere in four times the resolution of earlier GOES satellites, the NOAA added and will be used to improve the accuracy and timeliness of weather forecasts, severe weather advisories, watches, and warnings.
The newly released images, Volz said, “provide us with our first glimpse of the impact GOES-16 will have on developing life-saving forecasts” and “come from the most sophisticated technology ever flown in space to predict severe weather on Earth.” The NOAA will announce the satellite’s planned location in May, and by November, it will be renamed either GOES-East or GOES-West and will become fully operational, using six instruments to collect weather-related data.
Among those instruments, the Washington Post said, is the Global Lightning Mapper, which will be used to continuously monitor lightning strikes throughout North America and all of the oceans surrounding it. This unit, the newspaper noted, can detect changes in light on the surface and will be able to evaluate and communicate the intensity and rate of lightning in various storms
Another satellite, GOES-S, is currently in being tested at a Lockheed Martin facility in Littleton, Colorado and will be used to complement GOES-R, according to the NOAA. It will undergo an extensive series of environmental, mechanical and electromagnetic tests over the next year, then after launch and initial diagnostics, it will be moved into the position opposite GOES-16.
Image credit: NOAA Headquarters