In 1978, a few weeks after the launch of Meteosat-1, the German TV station Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen teamed up with the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) to broadcast a satellite image with the daily weather forecast.
Data from Meteosat-1 were received by an antenna situated in the Odenwald. ESOC processed the data to produce black-and-white images made up of 256 different tones of grey. The 12:00 UTC images, zoomed in on Germany, were further processed for the ZDF viewers into an artificial colour image by assigning colours to the various shades of grey.
Polaroids from the past
To transfer the image to ZDF, a Polaroid picture was taken of the computer screen, after which a courier transported the photos from ESOC in Darmstadt to the ZDF studio in Mainz.
In November 1979 Meteosat-1 unexpectedly failed and for almost two years there was no geostationary satellite over 0 degrees. In June 1981 Meteosat-2 was ready to start operational service, transmitting images every 30 minutes.
In December 1982 ZDF had its own Direction Reception equipment in place, and was technically able to receive the satellite image directly into their video system, thereby preserving the original quality of the images.
Thanks to ZDF, who had retained the old Polaroid pictures from the early days of Meteosat First Generation, these images are still available to enjoy online or with our interactive CD-ROM (view screenshot). To order your free copy of the interactive CD, please contact our User Service Helpdesk.