Weather satellite sends planetary postcard

GOES-16 view of Earth
This composite color full-disk image from GOES-16, focusing on North and South America, was acquired at 10:07 a.m. PT on Jan. 15. (NOAA / NASA Photo)

Two months after its launch, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s GOES-16 weather satellite is sending back its first images – and they’re spectacular.

GOES-16 is watching the Western Hemisphere from a geosynchronous orbit 22,300 miles above Earth, with a camera known as the Advanced Baseline Imager that provides four times the resolution of previously launched GOES satellites.

In a news release accompanying the first pictures, NOAA says the higher resolution should allow forecasters to pinpoint the location of severe weather with greater accuracy.

The imager scans Earth’s disk five times faster than the earlier generation of GOES cameras. That allows it to produce pictures of the continental U.S. every five minutes, and full-disk views every 15 minutes.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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