Earth had itself a day yesterday. Chile and Argentina got a prime look at a total solar eclipse while the Pacific Ocean played host to Hurricane Barbara, the strongest storm on Earth at the moment.
It’s a double feature eclipsecane nobody on the ground would have any hope of capturing in a day, but satellites in geostationary satellites hovering roughly 22,300 miles from Earth’s surface had a front row seat. Meteorologist and satellite lover Dakota Smith first brought attention to the amazing images two satellites belonging to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) captured on Tuesday morning.
The first is GOES-17, which scans the Pacific Ocean and western half of North America for storms. On Tuesday, it captured the shadow of the moon sliding across the ocean and over South America as it passed between the Earth and sun. The view is, in some ways, less impressive than what viewers on the ground in South America were treated to as the sun blacked out. But GOES-17 had one advantage of also including Hurricane Barbara in its view.
The storm is the first major hurricane in the eastern Pacific this year. As of Wednesday, it had winds of 155 mph, placing it just a shade below Category 5 strength. The good news is it doesn’t pose any threat to land so gawking it is fair game, especially as the moon’s shadow scurries across Earth’s surface.
GOES-16, NOAA’s satellite for monitoring eastern North America, South America, and the Atlantic Ocean, also caught the eclipse as it neared “landfall” in Chile. Though the satellite is used for monitoring hurricanes in the Atlantic, it still managed to capture Barbara in the far left corner of its view. Bonus points for the amazing swirl of clouds at the top of the image cruising over northern Canada.
The whole episode is a reminder of the wonders of science and technology. Humans can determine when and where eclipses will occur, forecast hurricanes, and put freaking satellites into space that help us watch all this stuff in real time. Also, Earth is a really cool planet and we’re lucky to call it home. Tuesday was a good reminder of all those things, rolled up into one amazing package.