Weather experts and enthusiasts alike have been waiting for this day, and surely, they can all agree it's worth the wait.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has officially released a series of breathtaking satellite images of the Earth taken by its 16th Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite mission, which took off from the Cape Canaveral spaceport in Florida last Nov. 19.
GOES-16 Captures Heaven In High Definition
Equipped with an Advanced Baseline Imager instrument built by Harris Corporation, GOES-16 boasts three times more spectral channels and four times better image resolution than earlier generations of GOES satellites.
According to NOAA, GOES-16 is specially designed to take high-definition images of the continental United States every five minutes and the full Earth every 15 minutes.
Through an official public statement, the agency shared the first space photographs taken by GOES-16 from a geostationary orbit 22,300 miles above Earth.
Aside from an updated version of the iconic Blue Marble image of the planet, GOES-16 also captured high-resolution photos of the Saharan Dust Layer, the shallow waters of the Caribbean, the Yucatan peninsula, as well as North America and South America and the surrounding oceans during times of significant weather conditions.
NOAA describes this milestone as "the latest step in a new age of weather satellites," bringing "high-definition from the heavens."
The Future Of Weather Forecasting
With its satellite's advanced imaging features, NOAA is optimistic that GOES-16 will take weather forecasting to greater heights.
"This is such an exciting day for NOAA! One of our GOES-16 scientists compared this to seeing a newborn baby's first pictures - it's that exciting for us," said Stephen Volz, director of NOAA's Satellite and Information Service.
"These images come from the most sophisticated technology ever flown in space to predict severe weather on Earth. The fantastically rich images provide us with our first glimpse of the impact GOES-16 will have on developing life-saving forecasts," Volz added.
The new location for GOES-16 will be announced in May this year. NOAA plans to use all six new instruments of the satellite once it becomes fully operational as either GOES-East or GOES-West this coming November.
GOES-S, The Second GOES Satellite
Next on the list is the GOES-S, which is now going through a series of environmental, mechanical, and electromagnetic testing at Lockheed Martin's Corporation headquarters in Littleton, Colorado. It has a targeted launch date of August 2017.
GOES-S, which will soon go by the name GOES-17 after its launch, is part of NOAA's four-satellite program, along with GOES-R, GOES-T, and GOES-U.