Science

Stunning global image of the Earth taken by a NASA satellite

Stunning: Aside from offering a new global perspective of Earth from space, this image is just the beginning of a new scientific mission that will monitor marine ecology and marine health, as well as track wildfires, droughts and floods
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It’s a stunning image of our planet, capturing everything from the vivid blue hue of the Caribbean Sea to the dense smog hanging over the north India.

But aside from offering a new global perspective of Earth from space, the image is just the beginning of a new scientific mission that will monitor marine ecology and health, and track wildfires, droughts and floods.

That’s because it was taken from a recently launched one OUR Satellite NOAA-21, which experts hope will provide important information about the oceans, atmosphere and land of our planet.

The Earth observation spacecraft has an instrument known as the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), which began collecting data in early December and created a mosaic of still images over a 24-hour period.

Stunning: Aside from offering a new global perspective of Earth from space, this image is just the beginning of a new scientific mission that will monitor marine ecology and marine health, as well as track wildfires, droughts and floods

Stunning: Aside from offering a new global perspective of Earth from space, this image is just the beginning of a new scientific mission that will monitor marine ecology and marine health, as well as track wildfires, droughts and floods

It captures everything from the brilliant blue Caribbean Sea (pictured) to the snow-capped Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau

It captures everything from the brilliant blue Caribbean Sea (pictured) to the snow-capped Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau

WHAT IS NOAA-21?

NOAA-21 was launched into orbit on Nov 10 from Vandenberg Space Force Base.

It has an instrument known as Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), which will provide vital information about our planet’s oceans, atmosphere and land.

VIIRS measures sea surface temperature, a metric important for monitoring hurricane formation, while monitoring ocean color helps keep tabs on phytoplankton activity – a key indicator of ocean ecology and marine health.

NOAA-21 is the second of NOAA’s new generation of polar-orbiting satellites.

The first, NOAA-20, was launched in 2017, with a third following in 2027 and a fourth in 2032.

Another research satellite called Suomi-NPP, launched in 2011, served as the blueprint for the JPSS series.

It snapped all sorts of features, including the snow-capped Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau, into the haze and smog over northern India caused by agricultural fires.

VIIRS measures sea surface temperature, a metric important for monitoring hurricane formation, while monitoring ocean color helps keep tabs on phytoplankton activity – a key indicator of ocean ecology and marine health.

“The turquoise color visible around Cuba and the Bahamas in the image below, left, comes from sediments in the shallow waters around the continental shelf,” said Dr. Satya Kalluri, program scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Over land, VIIRS can detect and measure wildfires, droughts and floods, and its data can be used to track wildfire smoke thickness and movement.

The instrument also provides analysis of snow and ice cover, clouds, fog, aerosols and dust, and the state of global crops.

It collects images in both the visible and infrared light spectrums, allowing scientists to see details of the Earth’s surface.

One of its most important uses is creating images of Alaska, added Dr. Kalluri adds, as satellites like NOAA-21 orbit the Earth from the North Pole to the South Pole, so they fly directly over the Arctic several times a day.

It also has what’s called a day-night tape that captures images of lights at night, including city lights, lightning, aurora borealis, and lights from ships and fires.

“VIIRS serves so many disciplines that it’s an absolutely critical set of measurements,” said Dr. James Gleason, NASA Project Scientist for the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) Flight Project.

“VIIRS provides many different data products used by scientists in unrelated fields, from agricultural economists trying to make crop forecasts, to air quality scientists predicting where wildfire smoke will be, to disaster relief teams counting night lights to determine the To understand the effects of a catastrophe.’

NOAA-21 is the second operational satellite in the JPSS series, blasted into orbit on Nov 10 from Vandenberg Space Force Base.

The previous one – known as NOAA-20 – was launched in November 2017.

Overcast: It also snapped the haze and smog over northern India (pictured) which experts say was caused by agricultural fires

Overcast: It also snapped the haze and smog over northern India (pictured) which experts say was caused by agricultural fires

NOAA-21 (shown in an artist's rendering) is the second operational satellite in the JPSS series, blasted into orbit on Nov 10 from Vandenberg Space Force Base

NOAA-21 (shown in an artist’s rendering) is the second operational satellite in the JPSS series, blasted into orbit on Nov 10 from Vandenberg Space Force Base

Both ships observe the entire surface of the earth twice a day while flying 512 miles (824 kilometers) above our planet at 27,360 km/h.

A third JPSS satellite is scheduled for launch in 2027 and a fourth in 2032.

Another research satellite called Suomi-NPP, launched in 2011, served as the blueprint for the JPSS series.

“We launched several weather satellites to double and now triple check that one is always operational. Space is a dangerous environment,” said Dr. Gleason.

“Things happen and you can lose an instrument or a satellite, but we can’t lose the data. It’s too important for too many people.’

NOAA-21 will be the 21st polar-orbiting satellite operated by NOAA and is expected to have a mission life of approximately seven years.

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WHAT IS THE GEOSTATIONAL OPERATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL SATELLITE PROGRAM?

The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite Program (GOES) is a joint effort between NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

NOAA’s operational GOES-S geostationary constellation consists of – GOES-16 operating as GOES-East, GOES-15 operating as GOES-West, and GOES-14 operating as an in-orbit backup. GOES-17 is expected to be fully operational by the end of the year.

The GOES-R series will retain the two-satellite system implemented by the current GOES series.

However, the locations of the operational GOES-R satellites will be 75 degrees W longitude and 137 degrees W longitude.

The latter is a shift to eliminate conflicts with other satellite systems.

The operational lifetime of the GOES-R series extends to December 2036.

These spacecraft help meteorologists observe and forecast local weather events, including thunderstorms, tornadoes, fog, hurricanes, flash floods, and other severe weather.

In addition, GOES observations have proven useful in monitoring dust storms, volcanic eruptions, and wildfires.

Benefits that directly improve people’s quality of life and protect the Earth’s environment include:

  • Support for the Satellite Search and Rescue System (SARSAT)
  • Contributing to the development of global environmental alert services and the improvement of basic environmental services
  • Improving the ability to predict and provide real-time alerts on sun clutter
  • Providing data that can be used to increase knowledge and understanding of the atmosphere and its processes

The next set of GOES satellites includes GOES-R, S, T and U.

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