Skip to main content

LightSail 2 solar sail spots Hurricane Laura from space as satellites track storm's path

An image taken by The Planetary Society's LightSail 2 mission on Aug. 24, 2020, shows Hurricane Laura in the lower left, the Caribbean in the lower center, and the satellite's large solar sail at the top of the frame. (Image credit: The Planetary Society)

A unique satellite has joined the fleet of orbital eyes keeping watch over Hurricane Laura as it approaches the Gulf Coast.

The Planetary Society's LightSail 2 is a crowdfunded solar sail that launched in June 2019 to test whether a satellite could successfully orbit Earth for a year powered only by the sun's rays. It has succeeded and then some, remaining in orbit today. And on Aug. 24, it captured an image of Hurricane Laura (then still a tropical storm) swirling across the Gulf of Mexico. 

"To all near this mighty storm, stay safe out there!" Planetary Society representatives wrote in the post

Related: Astronaut and satellites see tropical storms Laura and Marco from space

Lightsail 2 is hardly the only satellite watching the storm: a host of missions run by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are also studying Laura in order to better keep meteorologists and disaster response experts apprised.

Hurricane Laura is currently a Category 3 storm based on its wind speeds and will likely strengthen to a Category 4 storm later today (Aug. 26) before making landfall, according to a forecast from NOAA's National Hurricane Center.

The storm's consequences are expected to ripple across eastern Texas and Louisiana, with threats including storm surge of up to 15 feet (4.6 meters), heavy rains, powerful winds and perhaps tornadoes. 

After landfall, Hurricane Laura will weaken, but the storm will continue; its remains are currently predicted to travel through Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee and the Virginias, then up along the Atlantic coast.

If you live in these regions, keep an eye on the National Hurricane Center's forecasts for the storm.

Email Meghan Bartels at mbartels@space.com or follow her on Twitter @meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: community@space.com.