GOES-16 captured this view of the moon, as it looks across the Pacific Northwest on Jan. 15. As with earlier GOES spacecraft, GOES-16 will use the moon for calibration. (NOAA/NASA)

The satellite formerly known as GOES-R (so Prince, right?) has transmitted its first images back to Earth, and they are flooring. From the details on the face of the moon to the incredible resolution of cumulus over the Caribbean, these first pixels portend a sunny future for NOAA’s new GOES-16 satellite.

Meteorologists are drooling. This release coincides with the first day of the American Meteorological Society’s annual meeting. There are thousands of weather geeks in Seattle this week, and — at least on Monday — they’re all looking at this next-gen satellite imagery.

As we’ve written before, GOES-R satellite has six instruments, two of which are weather-related. The Advanced Baseline Imager, developed by Harris Corp., is the “camera” that looks down on Earth. The pictures it sends back will be clearer and more detailed than what’s created by the current satellites.

The ABI can scan half the Earth — or the “full disk” — in five minutes. If forecasters want to home in on an area of severe weather, it can scan that region every 30 seconds.

NOAA's new GOES-16 satellite contains a global lightning mapper, which will continuously track and transmit all lightning strikes across North America. (NOAA)

The other weather instrument, the Global Lightning Mapper, will continuously track and transmit all lightning strikes across North America and its surrounding oceans. Developed by Lockheed, it can detect the changes in light on Earth and thus the rate and intensity of lightning in thunderstorms and hurricanes.

GOES-16 is expected to go operational in November, approximately one year after its launch.


This composite color full-disk visible image was captured 1:07 p.m. ET on Jan. 15 using several of the 16 spectral channels available on the GOES-16 Advanced Baseline Imager. The image shows North and South America and the surrounding oceans. (NOAA/NASA)

On the right, an image from GOES-13 and on the left, the first public image from GOES-16, both taken Jan. 15. (NOAA/NASA)