Visible satellite images represent the amount of sunlight being reflected back into space by the clouds or by the Earth surface
Satellite imagery is used by observers to forecast weather conditions over the next couple of days. Satellites show cloud patterns over an large area, for example the continent of Europe. A swirl of cloud over the Atlantic Ocean on a satellite image often means that a depression is moving in.
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Types of Satellite
Satellites are put into one of two kinds of orbits around the Earth, each has advantages and disadvantages for weather forecasting. The first is a 'geostationary orbit' with the satellite at a very high altitude and orbiting over the equator. This allows the satellite to view the same area continuously and is typically what you'll see on a BBC or ITV weather forecast.
The other type is 'Polar orbit' where the satellite is put into a relatively low altitude orbit that carries the satellite near the North and South Pole approximately every 90 minutes. Unlike the geostationary orbit, the Polar orbit allows complete coverage of the Earth.