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Satellites and Space

These items are designed for the teacher to use in the classroom or as background reference material. There is also information about programs that provide training and other opportunities for educators.

    Taking the "Pulse" of the Planet - To learn more about NOAA's role in Earth Observing Systems, go to the blue text at the bottom of this page.


  • NOAA Environmental Visualization Lab- Exciting animations, data visualizations, satellite imagery and other visually stunning datasets of Earth. Updated daily.

  • NOAA's Satellites - NOAA operates the nation's system of environmental (weather) satellites and manages the processing and distribution of the millions of bits of data and images that these satellites produce daily. The primary customer of satellite information is NOAA's National Weather Service, which uses the data to create forecasts for the public, television, radio, and weather advisory services. There are two types of satellites: the geostationary operational environmental satellites (GOES) for short-range warning and "now-casting". Click here to go to the main NOAA page on geostationary satellites. Polar-orbiting satellites are used for longer-term forecasting. Click here to learn more about the polar orbiting satellites. Both types of satellites are necessary for providing complete global weather monitoring.

  • Geostationary Satellites GOES satellites provide the kind of continuous monitoring necessary for intensive data analysis. They circle the Earth in a geosynchronous orbit, which means they orbit the equatorial plane of the Earth at a speed matching the Earth's rotation. This allows them to hover continuously over one position on the surface. Because they stay above a fixed spot on the surface, they provide a constant vigil for the atmospheric "triggers" for severe weather conditions such as tornadoes, flash floods, hail storms, and hurricanes.

  • Polar Orbiting Satellites The POES satellite system offers the advantage of daily global coverage, by making nearly polar orbits roughly 14.1 times daily. Since the number of orbits per day is not an integer, the sub orbital tracks do not repeat on a daily basis, although the local solar time of each satellite's passage is essentially unchanged for any latitude. Currently in orbit we have a morning and afternoon satellite, which provide global coverage four times daily. Because of the polar orbiting nature of the POES series satellites, these satellites are able to collect global data on a daily basis for a variety of land, ocean, and atmospheric applications. Data from the POES series supports a broad range of environmental monitoring applications including weather analysis and forecasting, climate research and prediction, global sea surface temperature measurements, atmospheric soundings of temperature and humidity, ocean dynamics research, volcanic eruption monitoring, forest fire detection, global vegetation analysis, and search and rescue.


  • NOAA's Remote Sensing Activities - Remote sensing is the science of remotely acquiring, processing, interpreting and presenting spatial data for objects and environmental processes using signals from a broad range within the electromagnetic spectrum. Remote sensing instruments are able to produce images of the physical properties and characteristics of objects without being in physical contact with them. NOAA's aircraft and satellites are common platforms from which the NOAA's remote sensing observations are made.

  • Satellite Meteorology Page - This page has been designed to offer high quality links to satellite training materials and tutorials, real-time imagery and animations, as well as GOES status reports.

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  • The Space Environment Center Home Page - We all know that the Sun is overwhelmingly important to life on Earth, but few of us have been given a good description of our star and its variations.

  • Short Topic Papers on Space Environment - Topics: Navigation, Radio Wave Propagation, Aurora, the Relationship between Kp and the Aurora, the Ionosphere, and Solar Maximum

  • A Primer on the Space Environment - It has been realized and appreciated only in the last few decades that solar activity affects people and their activities. This site highlights information about the sun and some of the more important solar features: sunspots, coronal holes, solar prominences, flares, coronal mass ejections (CME=s), the area between the sun and the earth, solar effects at earth, aurora, proton events, and the effects of geomagnetic storms on much of our current technology.

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    Observations are fundamental to describing, understanding and predicting the Earth's climate system. NOAA gathers, analyzes and archives data from the oceans, atmosphere and land surfaces from different parts of the globe.

    NOAA's Global Observing Platforms
    NOAA's mission is to understand and predict the oceans and atmosphere on timescales from minutes to centuries. To accomplish this goal, NOAA has deployed an array of global sensors that work together to provide data needed by scientists. These complementary systems, with information about the global oceans and atmosphere, operate at different altitudes with different instruments and include:

    Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites - NOAA has two GOES satellites that monitor the Western Hemisphere and the Pacific Ocean from goestationary orbit 35,800 kilometers (22,300 miles) above the equator. Because they stay above a fixed spot on the surface, they provide constant vigil for the atmospheric "triggers" for severe weather conditions like tornadoes, flash floods, hail storms, and hurricanes. To learn more about Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites and to access real time images, click here.

    Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellites - NOAA's two operational polar orbiting satellites scan the entire earth once every six hours from altitudes of about 850 kilometers (529 miles). Because of their polar orbiting nature, the POES series satellites are able to collect global data on a daily basis. Data from the POES series supports a broad range of environmental monitoring applications including weather analysis and forecasting, volcanic eruption monitoring, forest fire detection, search and rescue, and many other applications. To see a menu of products from the Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellites click here.

    Air Platforms - NOAA Aircraft have a rich history of investigating hazardous weather which has led to better prediction of hurricanes, tornadoes, and winter storms. NOAA is also investigating a new generation of unmanned aeronautical vehicles (UAVs) to provide accurate vertical soundings of atmospheric conditions and chemical composition to complement the satellite sensors. To learn more about NOAA aircraft click here.

    Surface and Submarine Platforms - NOAA ships have explored the ocean surface and plumbed its depths. NOAA, along with several other organizations, is now deploying an innovative array of Argo "floats" that descend several thousand meters into the ocean and then rise again to measure temperature, salinity, and ocean current. Several years ago, NOAA deployed the TAO/TRITON array of buoys in the tropical Pacific that helped to predict the El Niño/La Niña cycle. To learn more about the Argo "floats" click here (this is a not a U.S. Government website. NOAA is not responsible for the content of external internet sites) and to learn about the TAO/TRITON array click here.

    Global Observation Methods - A letter-sized poster in pdf format can be found by clicking here.

    Where in the World is Tomorrow Now? - To see where it's already tomorrow, click here.

    Educational Atmospheric Science-Related Information can be found here. (This is a not a U.S. Government website. NOAA is not responsible for the content of external internet sites).

    Satellite-Based Activities and Images based on can be found by clicking here. You'll need to download Flash Player, which is available at the site.

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Last Updated: August 31 , 2006 11:30 AM