NASA Podcasts

GOES Watches The Sun
04.27.10
 
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Intro music.

Narrator: 22 thousand miles away from Earth, the GOES satellites keep a watchful eye on our planet at all times,sending real-time data to help predict weather days in advance. At the same time, a set of instruments carried on board GOES, monitor our sun and provide critical data for space weather prediction. You may then ask yourself 'Why do that? Why do we care?'

Andre Dress: When you think of space weather and they talk about things like solar wind, It’s not the wind that you breath, this is radiation that’s coming off of the sun; Protons, electrons that come streaming off of the sun towards the Earth and they get caught in the Earth’s magnetic field.They get mirrored down to the poles, you see the aurora borealis and they heat the Earth’s environment and then it cools… …and so that heating and that cooling certainly has an impact on Earth- based weather.

Paul Richards: You may not know it but you can have a solar storm and all of a sudden you are pumping gas with your credit card and it’s not working in the machine. That could be from a disruption of communication satellites from solar weather. So, the solar weather affects you everyday down here as well, not only just astronauts…it affects people on Earth.

Narrator: In fact, space weather data is so important for our everyday life here on Earth, that there are people who actually monitor that data 24 hours a day, three hundred sixty five days a year.

Howard Singer: Hello, I am Howard Singer, chief scientist at NOAA’s space weather prediction center here in Boulder, CO. We study the space environment and provide information about what’s going on in space and on the Earth that’s influenced by our sun. The antennas that you see behind me are used to capture data from the Geosynchronous satellites; the GOES satellites; that are over 22 thousand miles above us here in Boulder.

Bob Rutledge: This is manned 24/7, 365. Space weather can happen in any time The forecasters assimilate all this data to develop both probabilistic forecast for the next 24 hours. The forecasters can also issue alerts and warnings in real time.

Janet Green: The people that use our data are the power companies because space weather can actually cause problems for the power grid and black outs. NASA uses our data to let the astronauts know to go to a safer place.

Paul Richards: Typically it has to be clear to go out on a spacewalk because you do subject yourself to even higher radiation because you are not shielded by either the shuttle or the space station.

Janet Green: Also GPS users use our data because space weather can increase errors in GPS We can do things like warn planes that if they fly in a certain latitude, they will loose communications. Or we can let satellite operators know that radiation levels are high and they can operate their instrument in a way that can make them less susceptible.

Rodney Viereck: All of these new customers; these new technologies, now depend on space weather in order to protect their systems.

Narrator: Other satellites, such as Stereo, SOHO, and SDO are dedicated to help scientists study the sun. Space weather forecasters use that data as well to create different models. So why then, would a weather satellite like GOES need to also look at the sun?

Paul Richards: SOHO, Stereo, SDO going up, they are all NASA experimental satellites looking for scientific data. GOES is actually operated by NOAA.We develop it here at NASA and they are operational satellites.

Janet Green: So that means that there are always two satellites running at all times and should one of those fails, there is even a 3rd satellite up there in storage, waiting to be turned on, so we will never miss some space weather event that’s going on.

Launch Countdown Announcer: Zero and lift off.

Narrator: On March 4th, 2010 NASA launched the last satellite in the GOES N-O-P series. GOES-P, now GOES-15, will ensure continuity of service and delivery of real-time data to help predict space and Earth-based weather more accurately.

Paul Richards: We are actually working on the replacement of those, GOES-R series, and they are going to be lasting for 5 years of storage and 15 years on orbit.

Closing music.

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