January 5, 2017 – On December 22, scientists received preliminary data from the outboard magnetometer (MAG) instrument aboard GOES-16. MAG observations of Earth’s geomagnetic field strength are an important part of NOAA’s space weather mission, with the data used in space weather forecasting, model validation, and for developing new space weather models.
Earth’s geomagnetic field acts as a shield, protecting us from hazardous incoming solar radiation. Geomagnetic storms, caused by eruptions on the surface of the sun, can interfere with communications and navigation systems, cause damage to satellites, cause health risks to astronauts, and threaten power utilities. When a solar flare occurs, GOES-16 will tell space weather forecasters where it happened on the sun and how strong it was. Using that information, forecasters can determine if the explosion of energy is coming toward Earth or not.
The Magnetometer is mounted on the end of a boom that extends 26 feet away from the satellite, allowing the sensor to be much more perceptive of the space environment than current magnetometers, resulting in better forecasting of space weather. It also samples five times faster than previous GOES magnetometers, which increases the range of space weather phenomena that can be measured.
The geomagnetic field measurements will provide alerts and warnings to satellite operators and power utilities. Magnetometer data will also be used in research. As part of NOAA’s space weather operations, MAG will provide information on the general level of geomagnetic activity and detection of sudden magnetic storms.
GOES-16 is a collaboration between NASA and NOAA. The satellite was built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Littleton, Colorado.