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The first visible image of the planet was released by scientists using a new weather satellite: the NOAA-21. The new image made public shows a mosaic of swaths of images snapped by the polar-orbiting website. Unlike geostationary weather satellites like the GOES series, polar orbiting satellites capture swaths of data and observe the planet twice a day. This new image was released just weeks after an image based on data processed by NOAA-21’s Advanced Microwave Sounder was released.
“People can rest easy knowing their weather satellites are on the job,” said Dr. Jim Gleason, NASA Project Scientist for the JPSS Flight Project. Following NOAA’s naming convention for polar orbiting weather satellites, the name JPSS-2 was replaced by NOAA-21.
Together, NOAA and NASA oversee the development, launch, testing, and operation of all the satellites in the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) program. NOAA funds and manages the program, operations, and data products. On behalf of NOAA, NASA and commercial partners develop and build the instruments, spacecraft, and ground system, and launch the satellites.
The visible image released this week is from the the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument on NOAA-21 , which began collecting Earth science data on December 5 over the East Coast of the United States. The data for the global image was collected on December 5 and 6.
Over land, VIIRS can detect and measure the intensity of wildfires, droughts and floods. The fire intensity is fed into a product that tracks the thickness and movement of wildfire smoke. VIIRS also generates critical environmental products on snow and ice cover, clouds, fog, aerosols and dust, and the health of the world’s crops.
The Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS) instrument onboard NOAA-21 captured its first global image on November 22, 2022, just 12 days after successfully launching into space from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
That initial image release marked the first in a series of first-light images from NOAA-21’s four instruments that will be released by NOAA before the satellite goes into full operational mode. ATMS is a key sensor used for numerical weather prediction models. The first image released uses NOAA-21 data to show the state of atmospheric water vapor. Red indicates little water vapor. Light blue shows more abundant water vapor, while dark blue in the polar region indicates surface snow and ice.
The ATMS instrument gives weather forecasters a global 3D picture of our atmosphere’s temperature and moisture—the most fundamental information needed by weather models that forecast daily weather and warn us of hurricanes, floods, droughts, heat waves, snowstorms, and other weather events. Because ATMS observes Earth in the microwave portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, it sees through clouds like an X-ray, allowing us to view the structure of the atmosphere underneath those clouds, and see inside of storms.
“This information is used to determine initial conditions for numerical weather prediction models to provide accurate forecasts for the future,” said Joint Polar Satellite System Program Scientist Satya Kalluri. “ATMS data are also used for measuring precipitation, hurricane intensity and surface temperature.”
The first satellite of the series, JPSS-1, was launched in 2017. JPSS-3 is in development and is scheduled to launch sometime in/around 2027.
With VIIS and ATMS now active and sharing images/data, the meteorological community is one step closer to getting a fully working new weather satellite at their disposal.
Meteorologists use data from both the JPSS series and the GOES series of Earth-observing satellites for forecasts, warnings, and monitoring of conditions.