HomeAstronomy & SpaceFirst images released from NOAA-21 VIIRS instrument

First images released from NOAA-21 VIIRS instrument

The first global image created with data from NOAA-21’s VIIRS instrument shows bright blue water in the Caribbean Sea and smog in Northern India.

The NOAA-21 Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument began collecting Earth science data on December 5. The satellite passed over the United States’ East Coast. Data for the global image were collected over the course of 24 hours on December 5 and 6. This came three weeks after NASA launched the NOAA-21 satellite from California’s Vandenberg Space Force Base on November 10, 2022.

The VIIRS instrument also flies on the NOAA-20 and NASA/NOAA Suomi-NPP satellites. It measures the atmosphere, land, and oceans globally. Raytheon Intelligence & Space in El Segundo, California built it.

Over the oceans, VIIRS measures sea surface temperature. It is an important metric for tracking hurricane formation. It also measures ocean colour. It aids scientists in monitoring phytoplankton activity. This is also an important indicator of ocean ecology and marine health.

VIRS can detect and measure wildfires, droughts, and floods over land. Its data can be used to track the thickness and movement of wildfire smoke. The haze and smog over Northern India in the bottom-right image above are most likely caused by agricultural burning. To the north, the snow-capped Himalayas and the Tibetan plateau can be seen.

One of the unique features of VIIRS is its Day-Night Band. It captures images of lights at night, including city lights, lightning, auroras, and lights from ships and fires. One of its most important applications is imagery over Alaska. These satellites fly directly over the Arctic several times per year.

The instrument also produces critical environmental products on snow and ice cover, clouds, fog, aerosols, and dust.

This “first light” image comes two weeks after the satellite’s Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS) released its first image.


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