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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

Stunning portrait of Earth from a new European weather sat

By Phil Plait

On July 5, 2012, the European Space Agency launched the Meteosat Second Generation-3 (MSG-3) weather satellite into a geosynchronous orbit about 40,000 kilometers above the Earth. It has several cameras on board, including the Spinning Enhanced Visible and Infrared Imager (SEVIRI) that takes (duh) visible and infrared pictures in 12 different wavelengths (colors). The first image from that camera was just sent back, and it's an incredibly beautiful shot of our home world:

[Click to enterranate, and holy cow do you want to.]

There is nothing about this picture I don't love. I think my favorite part is South America, on the left, coming out of night time and into the dawn. But the chains of clouds over Africa are a close second.

SEVIRI has a resolution of 1-3 kilometers, and can take these amazing full-disk shots of Earth. It also has a detector that can measure the amount of sunlight reflecting off the Earth as well as infrared light radiated by the Earth, which are critical measurements needed to better understand global warming. Interestingly, it also has a search and rescue transponder that acts as a relay for emergency distress signals.

MSG-3 is the third of four second generation METEOSAT satellites launched by the ESA; a third generation is even now being designed.

Everything this and the other MSG satellites do is important to our understanding of weather and climate, of course, and I'm glad these are being built and flown. But it doesn't hurt to also just marvel at the stunning pictures they send us.

Image credit: Eumetsat

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