Planet Earth

A Brand New Environmental Satellite Rides to the Rescue

GOES-18 remains on track to replace its ailing sibling and is already returning stunning images of Earth.

ImaGeo iconImaGeoBy Tom YulsmanMay 31, 2022 9:15 PM
GOES-18-panel
This GOES-18 image shows the contiguous United States observed on May 5, 2022 by each of the 16 channels of the weather satellite's Advanced Baseline Imager instrument. Each channel on the ABI measures energy at different wavelengths along the electromagnetic spectrum, providing valuable information about Earth’s atmosphere, land, and oceans. (Credit: NOAA)

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A critical environmental satellite is sick. Like a person who breaks out regularly in night sweats, a key instrument on the GOES-17 satellite is prone to overheating — at night.

Storms and hazards like volcanoes don't take a break at night, so GOES-17 was designed to keep a constant eye on the planet, 24/7. But the overheating problem has degraded its ability to monitor clouds, winds, atmospheric moisture, storm systems, and other factors essential for accurate weather forecasting and hazard monitoring.

But fear not! Another satellite, GOES-18, is riding to the rescue. It reached geostationary orbit on March 14, 2022. Since then, it has shown no signs of experiencing the same problem as its sibling.

Stunning High Resolution Imagery

The first GOES-18 images were released to the public recently, and they provide confidence that the satellite will provide us with stunning views of our planet — and valuable information about its functioning — for years to come, day and night.

This animation of images collected over the Upper Midwest demonstrates the point well:

The animation combines data from the visible and infrared portions of the electromagnetic spectrum (known as "sandwich" imagery) to show severe weather over Minnesota and Wisconsin early on May 11, 2022.

Here's another view of the same weather system:

This time, the weather system is seen in the visible end of the spectrum only — no sandwich with infrared data. (The view is in what's known as the 'red' band.) The high resolution "mesoscale" imagery, collected every minute, shows details in the structures of the roiling clouds as small as about .5 kilometers across — from 22,236 miles away!

Multiple Ways of Monitoring the Planet

GOES-18, launched on March 1, is NOAA’s newest geostationary satellite. Its Advanced Baseline Imager, or ABI, views Earth with sixteen different channels. Each one measures energy at different wavelengths to provide cutting edge environmental information. Two channels collect data in the visible end of the spectrum. Four are in the near-infrared, and 10 in the infrared. 

GOES-18 full disk GeoColor image from May 5, 2022. (Credit: NOAA)

The view above, showing the full disk of the Western Hemisphere of Earth, was acquired by GOES-18 on May 5, 2022. It combines data from multiple ABI channels to create an image that approximates what the human eye would see from space — a result known as GeoColor.

GOES-18 is continuing to undergo post-launch testing to prepare it for operations. In late summer, it's scheduled to start assisting GOES-17 in keeping an eye on things from a perch above the Pacific. This is known as the GOES-West position. (The GOES-16 satellite monitors the Western Hemisphere from a more eastern perspective, over South America.)

Finally, if all continues to go well, GOES-18 will take over from its ailing sibling in early 2023.

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