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Earth Shines in Dramatic New Pictures From Space

The first high-resolution images from an advanced weather satellite show our dynamic planet in vivid detail.

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The moon hangs over Earth in this picture taken by GOES-16 on January 15. Launched in November, GOES-16 is the latest advancement in weather satellite technology.


Get ready to see our home planet in a whole new light, thanks to stunning photos of Earth taken by a next-generation weather satellite.

The GOES-16 satellite is the latest in a series of Earth-monitoring probes operated by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Launched in November, the satellite is currently observing our world from about 22,300 miles above the surface.

On Monday, the probe sent back the first series of images from its Advanced Baseline Imager instrument, which shows Earth and our atmosphere in extraordinarily vivid detail. (Also see 15 amazing photos from astronaut Scott Kelly's year in space.)

“The GOES-16 is even better than we imagined,” says Steve Goodman, the satellite’s program officer at NOAA.

The satellite’s imager can produce a crisp view of an entire hemisphere at four times the resolution recorded by any other existing GOES spacecraft. The speedy new instruments can also provide a full image of the continental U.S. every five minutes and a full image of Earth every 15 minutes.

Other advances include a lightning mapper that is a “wholly new operational capability, and space weather instruments that have more sensitivity than the current instruments,” Goodman says.

Scientists will be able to use images and other information gathered from the satellite to improve weather monitoring, forecasts, and warnings, including better tracking of local storms, hurricanes, fires, dust storms, volcanic eruptions, and more.

“All these instruments improve the timeliness and accuracy of information that will enable forecasters to increase the lead time and accuracy of forecasts and warnings,” Goodman says. That, in turn, should lead to better models for understanding our dynamic Earth.

“The new GOES-16 and subsequent data will be assimilated into forecast models and, as the next-generation models increase in resolution, timeliness, and accuracy … there will be a demand for a greater capability to keep pace to observe, monitor, and predict the impacts on all of us.”