Today, NOAA's network of Earth-observing satellites capture some 20 terabytes of environmental data every day as they orbit the planet, and the imagery they collect is digitally merged to create the seamless and stunning views we see and use to study our world. However, 55 years ago today, the TIROS IX satellite took 450 individual photographs, which were assembled together to create the first ever photomosaic image of the world’s cloud cover. Please note the edges of the landmasses have been highlighted for clarity.
Compare this to the above image, taken on Feb. 9, 2020, by the polar-orbiting NOAA-20 satellite. What a difference a few decades makes!
The NOAA-20 satellite's VIIRS instrument scans the entire Earth twice per day at a 750-meter resolution. Multiple visible and infrared channels allow it to detect atmospheric aerosols, such as dust, smoke and haze associated with industrial pollution and fires. The polar-orbiting satellite circles the globe 14 times daily and captures a complete daytime view of our planet once every 24 hours.
The TIROS-IX satellite was launched on Jan. 22, 1965, and followed a near-polar orbit, circling the world every two hours so that it could cover the entire daylight portion of the planet. The satellite was equipped with two television camera systems, along with radiometers that measured radiation from the Earth. The spacecraft spun like a gyroscope to keep stable and remained operational until its cameras were no longer able to provide useful images 1967.