Light show! Watch a lightning storm flash across North America

Images are a time lapse from the GOES-17 weather satellite operated by NOAA
goes-17 lightning The GOES-17 weather satellite under construction. Since its launch on March 1, 2018, it's been busy. Want to see...? (NASAKennedy)


Whether it's watching the seasons change from space or jaw-dropping creatures from the depths of the ocean, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has given us plenty of incredible images to gawk over. And now we've got another we'd love to share with you.

Lights, camera ... LIGHTNING!

Fire at night, skywatcher's delight

NOAA has a weather satellite called GOES-17. It is part of a series of weather satellites known as the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite system (that stands for 'GOES', which, of course, you totally figured out!). This probe is designed to capture information about Earth's weather, ocean, and environment with unprecedented accuracy. And NOAA has just released some footage that gives us a front row seat to the kind of beautiful detail they're talking about.

We're talking about time lapse footage from a series of lightning storms as they travel across North America at night. Click below to watch some storm flow from the central US east across the continent.

Early warning system

There are two GOES satellites focused on this part of the world—17 and 16. They are both geostationary satellites. This means that they stay hovering over the same part of the planet as the orbit (even though they're about 35,000 km, 22,000 miles above the surface). By doing this, they are able to constantly watch what is happening in a given part of the world.

The GOES satellites observe lightning to watch out for huge jumps in activity. If lightning starts behaving more intensely, for example, meteorologists can be pretty sure that severe weather is developing. It makes it easier to warn people about high rainfall or heavy winds—the kinds of things that can bring flooding, transportation delays, and more.

In this case, though, it can also simply provide something that is quite beautiful to watch. We're going to watch it again, we think!


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