December 21, 2004
This visible satellite image showing the Western Hemisphere was acquired yesterday by a GOES (Geostationary Orbiting Environmental Satellite) satellite at 14:45Z or 9:45 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. The exact time of the winter solstice (summer solstice in the Southern Hemisphere) occurs today at 7:42 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. GOES satellites orbit approximately 22,000 miles (35,200 km) above the Earth's equator, permitting a nearly complete view of 1/2 of the Earth's surface. The Sun is now positioned over the Tropic of Capricorn (23 1/2 degrees south of the Equator), so while Antarctica is fully illuminated, the North Pole, and all land north of 66 1/2 degrees north latitude, is completely in the dark. Other noteworthy features on this image include the huge storm off the southwest tip of South America, thunderstorms embedded in the inter-tropical convergence zone (ITZ) over central South America, and the cloud mass off the Atlantic coast of North America, associated with a strong frontal system that ushered in bitter cold temperatures and mostly clear skies over the eastern U.S. and southeastern Canada.