spaceSpace and Physics

NASA Releases Gorgeous Images Of Earth From New Weather Satellite


Jonathan O'Callaghan

Senior Staff Writer

The Moon and Earth, seen by GOES-16 on January 15. NASA/NOAA

NASA and NOAA’s GOES-16 satellite, also known as GOES-R, has returned its first images from orbit – and they are rather fantastic, to say the least.

The satellite was launched back on November 19, 2016, on an Atlas V rocket. As its name suggests, it is the 16th in the GOES (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite) series, of which only several are still operational. They have been used to forecast weather, track severe storms, and more since 1975.


GOES-16 is particularly impressive, though, because it comprehensively improves upon its predecessors. Its Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) instrument can see how storms evolve in minutes, rather than the hours we were limited to before.

And now we’ve been treated to our first batch of images from the ABI. They show our planet in incredible detail, and the 16 spectral channels of the instrument can get different viewpoints on shifting storms.

“Seeing these first images from GOES-16 is a foundational moment for the team of scientists and engineers who worked to bring the satellite to launch and are now poised to explore new weather forecasting possibilities with this data and imagery,” said Stephen Volz, Ph.D., NOAA’s assistant administrator for Satellite and Information Services, in a statement. “The incredibly sharp images are everything we hoped for based on our tests before launch.”

GOES-16 is in a geostationary orbit 35,000 kilometers (22,000 miles) high, although its final position will not be decided until May 2017.


Three new GOES satellites are also going to be launched in the coming years – the next is GOES-S (or GOES-17), scheduled to launch in spring 2018. If these images are anything to go by, we’ve got plenty more to look forward to. Check them out below.

All images courtesy of NASA/NOAA, and taken on January 15

A full disk image of Earth, showing West Africa to Guam, taken in several of the 16 channels available on the ABI



A significant storm is seen crossing the US


North America seen in the 16 channels of the ABI – two visible, four near-infrared, and 10 infrared



The Saharan Dust Layer is seen on the far right of this image


The Caribbean and Florida



Agentina, South America, with storms in the northeast and mountain wave clouds in the southwest


California and the Baja Peninsula in Mexico



The Northeast coast of the US


The Yutacan Peninsula in Mexico and Central America. A fire and smoke can be seen on the southern coast of Mexico


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