If looked on line for satellite pictures of the East Coast late Sunday through Monday afternoon you might have had a problem. It all stemmed from a problem on one of our geostationary satellites.
The problem started late Sunday with the GOES 13 satellite. This satellite is in orbit about 23,000 miles above the earth and rotates around the earth at the same rate as the earth spins. This keeps the satellite over the same spot 24/7 and guarantees we get pictures over the eastern part of the of the United States. Over the weekend ‘noise’ started showing up on the satellite pictures. Although the exact cause of the problem is not known, it is not believed to be with the satellite instruments themselves. By late Sunday the ‘noise’ problem became so bad that they shut down GOES 13.
Luckily, we have a spare satellite already in orbit. GOES 14 was launched back in the summer of 2009 and after a few months of tests, it was ‘parked’ as kind of an insurance policy. This afternoon the NASA folks brought GOES 14 on-line and we are getting satellite pictures here in the eastern United States again. However, the orbit has the satellite centered over the central United States. While this still gives us East Coast pictures it limits the coverage over the tropical Atlantic Ocean. Engineers will be able to send instructions to the satellite to push it farther east to give us better coverage.
Meanwhile, there is no news on when, or if, GOES 13 will go back online.