There’s something wonderfully mesmerizing about this looping animated gif showing weather systems evolving over the course of two days across the Western Hemisphere.
It also happens to be just one of countless loops of images captured by the GOES-12 weather satellite during her time in geostationary orbit. Launched on July 23, 2001, she has monitored the weather, and the conditions that give rise to hurricanes, tornadoes, and flash-flood-spawning thunderstorms.
On Friday, GOES-12 rode off into the sunset. More precisely, she was decommissioned — meaning her last remaining fuel was used to nudge her into an orbit out of the way of operational satellites.
The satellite was notable for a number of things. For one, GOES-12 produced “a lengthy record of data collection for a geostationary satellite,” according to a post from the folks who produce the Satellite Blog at the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies.
But GOES-12 may be best known for an animated loop of images showing the evolution of Hurricane Katrina as the cyclone crossed Florida into the Gulf of Mexico and swept north to its landfall in Louisiana on Monday, August 29, 2005. Check it out below (and please note that the individual images that comprise the loop may take some time to load):
With GOES-12 now presumably collecting her well-earned government pension, two other GOES satellites are operational: GOES-13, known as GOES-East, and GOES-15, designated GOES-West. A third one, GOES-14, is in orbital storage, available to take over from one of the others should something go wrong.
For more information about the history of the environmental satellites of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, including GOES, check out this detailed history.