WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 27 - WEATHER SATELLITES: GOES EAST AND WEST


Almost all of the cloud images you see on television come from one of two satellites. Both are in orbit more than 22,000 miles above the equator, and both are operated by NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration.

The satellites are known as GOES-East and GOES-West. GOES is an acronym, standing for Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite. Geostationary means that a satellite orbits at the same rate as the earth rotates, so the satellite always stays fixed above the same point. GOES-EAST monitors North and South America, and most of the Atlantic Ocean. GOES-WEST also watches over most of North America along with much of the Pacific Ocean. Together, their field of view covers most of the Western Hemisphere.

Needless to say, these satellites are very important to meteorologists, so important that there's already a backup satellite waiting in orbit to take over in case either GOES-East or GOES-West fails.

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