The May 9 footage is the "first-light" imagery captured by the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM), an instrument aboard the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) recently launched GOES-17 satellite.
"The mapper observes lightning in the Western Hemisphere, giving forecasters an indication of when a storm is forming, intensifying and becoming more dangerous," NOAA officials wrote Monday (May 21) in a description of the video. "Rapid increases of lightning are a signal that a storm may strengthen quickly and could produce severe weather."
GOES-17 launched on March 1 to geostationary orbit, about 22,300 miles (35,900 kilometers) above Earth. The satellite currently hovers just off the western coast of South America.
GOES-17 is in the midst of a six-month checkout period. When this is complete, the spacecraft will move about 50 degrees of longitude to the west — out to sea above the Pacific Ocean — and begin its planned 15-year mission, which involves tracking weather systems and a variety of environmental hazards here on Earth, as well as monitoring solar activity and space weather.
The satellite will then be officially known as GOES-West. GOES-West and its twin, GOES-East, which launched in 2016 and now hovers over the Americas, will together be able to monitor a huge swath of the globe, from New Zealand to the west coast of Africa, NOAA officials said. (Adding to the name confusion, GOES-17 was known as "GOES-S" before launch.)
"GOES" stands for "Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites." The long-running, Earth-observing program is a collaboration between NOAA, which operates the satellites, and NASA, which oversees the crafts' design, manufacture and launch.