NOAA APT weather satellite images


Recorded at Northampton UK by G6KIZ
R2ZX receiver

Currently there are 3 fully operational NOAA APT weather satellites in operation NOAA 15 NOAA 18 and the latest NOAA 19 which was launched on the 6th February 2009.

NOAA 17 developed a serious fault in February 2010. The fault resulted in badly degraded images which then impacted composites built using them. For this reason I took the decision to cease recording of NOAA 17 images entirely however release 2.10.7 of WXtoImg provided the option of excluding specific satellites from composite images so this option was used instead. From May 8 2010 most NOAA 17 passes produced good images with only the occasional poor one but I don’t recall seeing a good one lately so I am using the WXtoImg 2.10.11 option to exclude in from the web pages. The NOAA POES status page should carry the latest information.

All the satellites are in approximately circular polar orbits at around 850km altitude and transmit 10w RF in the 137-138MHz band which makes them relatively easy to receive with a simple antenna. The main problem with reception in the UK is the staggeringly stupid decision to allow text pagers to operate in the same band. The authorities would doubtless argue that any problems are the fault of the APT receiver but low cost equipment cannot realistically be expected to cope with the intermodulation interference caused but a powerful nearby transmitter operating a few KHz away from the satellite frequency. The result is that pager interference will be seen on most of the pictures here as short dark lines where a pager signal wiped out the satellite. The demodulated signal is processed through a normal PC soundcard and the two greyscale images at different infrared wavelengths combined to produced the false colour images displayed below.

The MCIR-precip composite images give a good idea of where there is likely to be rain by use of bright false colouring. Looking at two images recorded a few hours apart can usually show the probable path the rain will follow. Note though that the colours are only an indication of possible rain not that rain is actually reaching the ground.

Pager tower causing the interference bars
This tower is less than a mile away and operates just 60Khz above the nearest satellite frequency – avoiding the interference is impossible difficult. I changed the impossible to difficult following some feedback from Michael Gill G6HOM who tells me that he constructed a stripline filter which successfully removed pager interference back in the ’80s or ’90s. I think I’ll have to see if there is anything amongst the junk stalls at the next amateur rally I attend which would allow me to give this a try without breaking the bank.

View Larger Map

Map overlay
I noticed that sometimes my map overlay was becoming seriously wrong. Investigating the problem I realised that a clock error of just a second or two could account for it. By default my Windows 7 resets the PC clock to an internet time server every 7 days. I now have amended my registry using regedit to set the clock more frequently and will watch to see how things go. The registry key involved is…
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\W32Time\TimeProviders\NtpClient (SpecialPollInterval)
Right click on ‘SpecialPollInterval’ in the right hand column and select Modify>Decimal. The decimal number is in seconds. I have set mine to 10800 (3 hours) which is probably a massive overkill but costs me nothing.

I noticed another overlay error today. On checking I found updating the time using the default had a timeout. I overtyped the timeserver to use instead which will hopefully be more reliable. This PC isn’t all that old but I’m wondering if it needs a new CMOS battery already and will change it if I remember next time I take the lid off the case.

Paul Glover has pointed me to Dimension 4 which he has started using successfully and seems to do pretty much what I have done with the above. I’ll leave mine as-is until such time as I see another problem and then will probably give this a go.

Paul Glover’s images
These images donated by Paul Glover of Worthing illustrate just what can be achieved with fairly modest amateur equipment when there is no local pager tower intermodulation interference.

Feel free to download any images for your own purposes – they can make attractive desktop wallpapers for instance.

During the second half of April 2013 I have not had any decent passes of NOAA 18. I’m not sure quite why and as I’ve been away from home most of the time haven’t been able to investigate properly.  I’m hoping it will be possible for me to fix this as following the demise of NOAA 17 there are only 3 APT satellites left and I don’t think there are plans for further launches. Now NOAA 18 passes are poor quality. It looks like the radio is either off tune or failing to change channel. Another possibility is that the antenna was damaged in the recent very high winds.


Well having taken a look it seems that the R2ZX radio was playing up. I power cycled it and it seems to change channel OK now. I have had a similar problem before and put the radio on a time switch to turn it off and on once a day. It was still on that timeswitch but the buttons on it must have been touched as it was no longer on the auto setting so hadn’t been power cycling.

Weather satellite images recorded at Northampton, United Kingdom

Latitude: 52.226, Longitude: -0.905 Software: WXtoImg version 2.10.11 Receiver: R2ZX Antenna: Bill Sykes and Bob Cobey QFH

Next Scheduled Satellite Pass - NOAA 19
Start of Pass : 28 Feb 12:53 GMT Standard Time
Time Available : 28 Feb 13:05 GMT Standard Time

Click on any thumbnail image below to see it at full size

Composite MCIR
Composite MCIR
28 Feb 2015 07:40

Composite MCIR-precip
Composite MCIR-precip
28 Feb 2015 07:40

28 Feb 2015 07:40

NOAA 15 MCIR-precip
NOAA 15 MCIR-precip
28 Feb 2015 07:40

28 Feb 2015 06:07

NOAA 18 MCIR-precip
NOAA 18 MCIR-precip
28 Feb 2015 06:07

Next Scheduled Satellite Passes over Northampton, United Kingdom

Start of Pass Time Available Direction Maximum Elevation
Degrees (East or West)
UTC Local Time* UTC Local Time*
NOAA 19 28 Feb 12:53 28 Feb 12:53 28 Feb 13:05 28 Feb 13:05 137.10
NOAA 18 28 Feb 14:20 28 Feb 14:20 28 Feb 14:30 28 Feb 14:30 137.9125
NOAA 19 28 Feb 14:35 28 Feb 14:35 28 Feb 14:46 28 Feb 14:46 137.10
NOAA 15 28 Feb 15:46 28 Feb 15:46 28 Feb 15:58 28 Feb 15:58 137.62
NOAA 18 28 Feb 15:59 28 Feb 15:59 28 Feb 16:12 28 Feb 16:12 137.9125
NOAA 15 28 Feb 17:26 28 Feb 17:26 28 Feb 17:37 28 Feb 17:37 137.62
NOAA 19 01 Mar 02:50 01 Mar 02:50 01 Mar 03:02 01 Mar 03:02 137.10
NOAA 18 01 Mar 04:16 01 Mar 04:16 01 Mar 04:26 01 Mar 04:26 137.9125

* local time is GMT Standard Time.

Since converting DigitalHam to use WordPress I have added some old email conversations as comments.

  20 Responses to “NOAA APT weather satellite images”

  1. hi wondering if by chance you have any hvc color palattes (color lookup tables) you can share thanks great looking pics wish my looked like that
    keep up the good work cheers

  2. I just use the stock WXtoImg program and have no extras for it. Sorry.

  3. Great to read so much interesting information about the subject. I wonder if anyone can help me with this question. I have a Timestep Proscan v4.1 and it does not have the newer frequencies. I would like to open it and alter one of the unused ones to 137.9125 MHz. The case seems to be sonically welded shut. Is there a way to open it and can one of the presets be retuned?

    Thanks for your help in anticipation.

  4. Greetings Mark from Rodney (retd) G7OEL,

    I just stumbled on your site as I was looking for qfh v turnstile user comparisons.

    I built an RX2 kit and turnstile in 1996 and had the foresight to wind a 12 turn feeder balun before connecting to the junction box. (Pic attached)

    The aerial survived three house job moves – Weston super Mare, Coventry, Scunthorpe and no pager interference bars were seen at any of them, or am I just lucky.

    Resultant pictures are marvellous and always have been. So I don’t think I would want to try a qfh, for me there’s no point.

    Keep up the good web site work and 73,
    From Rodney.

  5. I received the comment above as an email and added it myself. Here is my reply…

    Hi Rodney,

    the problem I have with the pager signals is down to proximity – the tower is less than a mile away. When I lived elsewhere in the town there was a lot less pager interference. A QFH gives more gain out to the sides than a turnstile which helps with receiving the satellites at a low angle but also leaves you more open to pager pickup. I have toyed with the idea of using a simple horizontal dipole as the pager lies pretty much due east so I could align the dipole north south which would be reasonable for the satellites apart from polarisation loss and the pager tower would be in the dipole null.

    Best wishes


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