Tiny NASA Satellite Looks Inside Hurricane Dorian as Storm Regains Category 3 Strength

An experimental NASA satellite has peered inside Hurricane Dorian from above, even as the storm regained its Category 3 status overnight Wednesday (Sept. 4). 

The tiny NASA CubeSat Tempest-D (Temporal Experiment for Storms and Tropical Systems Demonstration), which is about the size of a cereal box, has revealed a glimpse at the layers of Hurricane Dorian as it appeared earlier this week. The satellite captured levels of rainfall at different altitudes within the storm as it was approaching Florida on Sept. 3.

The different colors in the image show the areas of heaviest rainfall and the vertical layers of the image show where the strongest "storms" within the hurricane are moving higher into the atmosphere, according to a statement from NASA

Video: See the Latest Hurricane Dorian View from Space
Watch Hurricane Dorian in Action in these NASA and NOAA Gifs

In this animation taken at 2 a.m. EDT on Sep. 3, 2019, you can see the four layers of rainfall of Hurricane Dorian, captured by NASA's experimental weather satellite TEMPEST-D. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Tempest-D uses a miniature microwave radiometer, a radio wave instrument, to measure rain and moisture in Dorian's clouds. The mission, which launched in May 2018 on a private Cygnus spacecraft, is overseen for NASA by scientists at the Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

If the small satellite can successfully monitor and track Dorian, researchers hope that it will be a vital resource for storm tracking in the future, as CubeSats are inexpensive and so multiples could be used, according to the same statement. 

As of 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT), Hurricane Dorian had maximum sustained winds up to 110 mph (175 km/h) with even higher gusts, according to a National Hurricane Center update. officials reported earlier today. It's core was pinpointed about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south-southeast of Charleston,South Carolina, the NHC said.

NHC officials announced on Twitter that the storm is "bringing life-threatening storm surge, winds, heavy rainfall, and tornadoes to portions of the Carolinas."

A Weatherflow site at Shutes Folly in Charleston Harbor recorded wind gusts up to 73 mph (117 km/h) and an official observing site at the airport in North Myrtle Beach recorded wind reaching 61 mph (98 km/h), the update stated. 

NASA has been tracking the storm with satellites, and astronauts have even been able to spot the hurricane from the International Space Station, capturing it in images and video. 

If you live along Hurricane Dorian's path, follow your local National Weather Service office for the latest forecasts. You can find the latest updates on Dorian from the NHC here

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Chelsea Gohd
Senior Writer

Chelsea “Foxanne” Gohd joined Space.com in 2018 and is now a Senior Writer, writing about everything from climate change to planetary science and human spaceflight in both articles and on-camera in videos. With a degree in Public Health and biological sciences, Chelsea has written and worked for institutions including the American Museum of Natural History, Scientific American, Discover Magazine Blog, Astronomy Magazine and Live Science. When not writing, editing or filming something space-y, Chelsea "Foxanne" Gohd is writing music and performing as Foxanne, even launching a song to space in 2021 with Inspiration4. You can follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd and @foxannemusic.