Any day with a new full disk image of Earth is a good day. And folks, today is one of those days.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) launched the GOES-17 satellite in March. It’s a next generation weather satellite that will provide a major upgrade over what NOAA is currently operating with over the eastern U.S. and South America.
And while there have been some issues with its cooling system that have made parts of its vision blurry due to overheating at certain parts of its workday, some sensors on its Advanced Baseline Imager are humming along just fine thank you very much. NOAA released the first-ever images and videos using the imager and they are, well, just look:
The image you see is from May 20. It was made using sensors that capture blue, red, near-infrared, and infrared channels of light. Nothing particularly special happened that day weather-wise, but our planet is a stunner even on an average day.
All the basic features of our atmosphere are on display in detail never before seen from this particular vantage point roughly 23,000 miles above the Earth’s surface. The intertropical convergence zone, a band of clouds that rings Earth near the equator, is clearly visible cutting across northern Brazil and the Pacific Ocean. Marine layer clouds are plowing into the West Coast of the U.S. and Baja California, a fixture of late spring and early summer weather there. The deserts in the Southwest and Chile are largely cloud-free as they are most days.
Weather. It’s happening.
Along with the full disk image, NOAA released a few zoomed in views to show off the incredible details GOES-17 can capture. Two are closeups of clouds off Chile and California.
They show how winds can move clouds at different speeds in the atmosphere. The rippling clouds off the coast of Chile are also a good reminder of the fact that our atmosphere acts like a fluid. A third video captures smoke plumes from wildfires in Saskatchewan, showing that even small phenomenon on the ground are still visible from a distant perch in space.
The satellite isn’t yet operational. Once the kinks get worked out, the data and imagery it sends back will be used to help improve forecasts for everything from hurricanes to wildfires. But in the meantime, we get to enjoy some pretty amazing footage of our pretty amazing planet.