GOES-12 weather satellite

Image: NOAA/YouTube

The U.S. government retired its GOES-12 weather satellite this month, wrapping up an illustrious career for the storm-spotting orbiter. To honor its decade of service — and weather satellites in general — the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration squeezed everything GOES-12 saw for 10 years into a 187-second time-lapse video.

The result is a humbling review of Western Hemisphere weather over the past decade, including major U.S. events like Hurricane Katrina, Snowmageddon and Superstorm Sandy. Historic, life-changing storms shrink into fleeting wisps from 22,000 miles overhead, putting our human experience in a more planetary perspective.

Check out the video below, which features one image per day since April 1, 2003:

Now that it's retired, GOES-12 will be powered down and nudged deeper into its geostationary orbit, reducing its likelihood of crashing into operational spacecraft. That may seem like an unceremonious farewell, but the satellite's human co-workers sang its praises in a recent press release. "GOES-12 gave the Western Hemisphere many years of reliable data," said Mary Kicza, assistant administrator for NOAA's Satellite and Information Service, "from small storms to those of historic proportions."

GOES-13 and GOES-15 will now serve as the agency's two main weather satellites, while GOES-14 waits as a backup in case either one runs intro trouble. And as GOES-13 learned earlier this year, working 22,000 miles high does come with risks: The satellite was knocked offline by a micrometeoroid in May, although NOAA quickly revived it.

The next generation of U.S. geostationary weather satellites, GOES-R (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R Series), is scheduled to launch in 2015.

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Russell McLendon ( @russmclendon ) writes about humans and other wildlife.

See 10 years of weather in 3 minutes [Video]
A new time-lapse video honors the recently retired GOES-12 weather satellite.