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Satellite launches to keep an eye on space weather as solar activity ramps up

·2 mins

Forecasters will soon be able to see real-time mapping of lightning activity on Earth and keep a closer eye on solar storms unleashed by the sun thanks to a new weather satellite. Together, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration launched GOES-U, or the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite U mission, on Tuesday. GOES-U is the fourth, final satellite in the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites R Series. Once GOES-U reaches a geostationary orbit, or a circular orbit above Earth’s equator, the satellite will be renamed GOES-19, or GOES East. GOES-U carries multiple instruments that will improve the detection of space weather hazards, including the Compact Coronagraph-1 that can detect solar flares and coronal mass ejections, as well as characterize the size, velocity, density, and direction of these solar storms. From orbit, GOES-U will monitor weather, climate, and environmental hazards across North, Central, and South America, the Caribbean, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west coast of Africa. GOES-U will carry the first operational lightning mapper flown in geostationary orbit. The main camera on GOES-U can zoom in to track dangerous weather and environmental conditions as often as every 30 seconds, a capability that enables better warning systems. In addition to early warning of hurricane formation, GOES-U can also collect climate data on Earth’s oceans such as signs of marine heat waves and sea surface temperatures, which impact the marine food chain and can lead to mass coral bleaching events.