The new weather satellite returns the first images; Will move to the Pacific over time


This GOES-18 image shows the contiguous United States observed by each of the ABI’s 16 channels on May 5, 2022. This 16-panel image shows the two visible channels, four near-infrared and 10 infrared of the ABI. ‘ABI. The visible and near infrared bands are gray in color, while the infrared bands have warmer brightness temperatures mapped to warmer colors. The different appearance of each band is due to the way each band reflects or absorbs radiation. Each spectral band was swept around the same time, starting at 18 UTC. Image: NOAA

The new GOES Advanced Weather Satellite has sent its first stunning images of the planet back to Earth; after further testing, the satellite will move over the Pacific and collect imagery and data across Hawaii, the central and eastern Pacific hurricane basins, and the west coast of the United States. Originally known as the GOES-T weather satellite, the rocket launched from Florida’s Space Coast on March 1. Once it reached geostationary orbit above Earth 22,236 miles above it, the satellite was renamed GOES-18. Once testing is complete and the satellite is moving over the Pacific, it will be renamed GOES-West. The existing GOES-West will go into “storage”, floating above the Earth as a backup in the event that one of the other GOES satellites fails.

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket launches NOAA's newest weather satellite into space on March 1.  Image: ULA
3…2…1…LAUNCH!
A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket launches NOAA’s newest weather satellite into space on March 1. Image: ULA

“We at NASA are proud to support our partner agency, NOAA, and its mission to provide critical data and imagery to forecasters and researchers who monitor hazardous weather,” said Pam Melroy, Deputy Administrator of NASA, after launch. “While the main job of the GOES-R series satellites is to help with weather forecasting, these satellites produce observations that also help NASA science. The collaboration of our agencies brings great benefits to the understanding of This GOES-T satellite is the third in the GOES-R series to send images back to Earth, the others being GOES-S which currently acts as GOES-West.

The GOES-T satellite is pictured here in a clean room on Earth long before it heads into space on March 1.  Image: Lockheed Martin
The GOES-T satellite is pictured here in a clean room on Earth long before it heads into space on March 1. Image: Lockheed Martin

With the satellite fully powered, the satellite was sent to its initial checkout position of 89.5 degrees west longitude, between the operational GOES-East and GOES-West satellites. Once there, the magnetometer boom was deployed, kicking off an in-orbit checkout and validation of its instruments and systems.

This week, the first images from the satellite’s Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) were sent back to Earth. The ABI provides high resolution imagery and atmospheric measurements for short term forecasts and severe weather warnings. ABI data is also used to detect and monitor environmental hazards such as forest fires, dust storms, volcanic eruptions, turbulence and fog.

Data from multiple ABI channels can be combined to create images that approximate what the human eye would see from space, an outcome known as GeoColor. Combining data from different channels in different ways also allows meteorologists to highlight features of interest.

GeoColor image of the GOES-18 full disk from May 5, 2022. This type of imagery combines data from multiple ABI channels to approximate what the human eye would see from space.  Image: NOAA
GeoColor image of the GOES-18 full disk from May 5, 2022. This type of imagery combines data from multiple ABI channels to approximate what the human eye would see from space. Image: NOAA

After a successful test routine, GOES-18 will take over as the operational GOES-West satellite in early 2023, replacing GOES-17. NOAA plans to continue to maintain GOES-17 as a backup should anything happen to this new GOES-West or the older GOES-East weather satellite, both of which provide continuous weather satellite coverage over of the United States and adjacent ocean waters.

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