GOES-3 started service on 16 June 1978 and was the operational GOES-West satellite until the late 1980s. Having lost imaging capabilities, it started a second long life as a communications satellite; GOES-3 is currently the oldest operating satellite. Decommissioning will begin on 8 June and run for 15 days. If final decommissioning happens as planned on 23 June, GOES-3’s service life will be 38 years, 7 days.
GOES-3’s arguably most famous imagery occurred during the eruption of Mount St. Helens on 18 May 1980, shown above (click here for an animation of the eruption, courtesy of Barry Roth, SSEC; Tim Schmit, NOAA/ASPB also provided longer visible animations: MP4 | animated GIF).
A comparison of GOES-3 Visible (0.65 µm) and Infrared Window (11.5 µm) images, below, showed that a large portion of the volcanic cloud exhibited IR brightness temperatures of -60º C (dark red color enhancement) or colder as the feature moved rapidly eastward during the first 10 hours following the eruption. It is interesting to note that an “enhanced-V” or cold/warm (-65º/-47º C) thermal couplet signature was evident on the initial 1545 UTC Infrared image (zoom), as the volcanic ash cloud rapidly rose to an estimated altitude of 12 to 16 miles (20 to 27 km) above sea level.Some early examples of full disk GOES-3 images (on 20 November 1978) are shown below, courtesy of Tim Schmit, NOAA/ASPB.