The Little Satellite That Could: GOES-12 Rides Off Into Sunset

By Tom Yulsman | August 17, 2013 6:38 pm

The final two days of images from GOES-12 showing the full disk of the Western Hemisphere before the weather satellite was retired on Aug. 16, 2013. (Source: Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies)

There’s something wonderfully mesmerizing about this looping animated gif showing weather systems evolving over the course of  two days across the Western Hemisphere.

A GOES weather satellite. (Source: NOAA)

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):

An animation from GOES 12 shows the evolution of Hurricane Katrina and its landfall on Monday, August 29, 2005. (Source: Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies)

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.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Remote Sensing, select, Top Posts, Weather


ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

About Tom Yulsman

Tom Yulsman is Director of the Center for Environmental Journalism and a Professor of Journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also continues to work as a science and environmental journalist with more than 30 years of experience producing content for major publications. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Audubon, Climate Central, Columbia Journalism Review, Discover, Nieman Reports, and many other publications. He has held a variety of editorial positions over the years, including a stint as editor-in-chief of Earth magazine. Yulsman has written one book: Origins: the Quest for Our Cosmic Roots, published by the Institute of Physics in 2003.


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