Low Earth Orbiting Satellites

Satellites in a sunsynchronous orbit circle the earth from pole-to-pole. A satellite in this orbit views all regions of the earth in a single day and are good for global weather studies. Sunsynchronous orbits are also referred to as polar orbits as the polar regions are frequently viewed, for example 14 times a day. They are also called Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) satellites because they orbit the Earth at a much lower altitude than the GEO satellites. Here is a recent composite view of the south polar region.

In the tropical regions a LEO satellite flies by a particular region of the earth twice a day -- for example once in the afternoon and once in the evening. NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) typically maintains two polar orbiting satellites. One views the United States at approximately 2 p.m. and 2 a.m. local time and the second views regions of the US around 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. local time.

By combining polar orbiting satellite observations made over a day into one image, you can view the cloud cover of the world! Latest Satellite Composite of Global Cloud cover (updated every day) provided by the Cooperative Institute of Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS).

The Verner E. Suomi Virtual Museum development funded in part by the National Science Foundation Grant #EAR9809458.  Material presented is Copyrighted (C) 1999 by Steve Ackerman and Tom Whittaker.  If you have questions or comments, please let us know!