How do satellite transmitters work?
There are 4 polar orbiting satellites that are currently used for tracking animals. The satellites are operated by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Organization (NOAA) and are the same satellites used to monitor global weather patterns. Attached to these satellites are special instruments operated by a French company, ARGOS CLS.. These special instruments are designed to listen for transmitters like those we place on turtles and to determine where those transmitters are located. While such task would seem simple, it is not. Each transmitter circles the earth every 101 minutes and so is only over any one place on the planet for about 10 minutes. At the equator, this means that the satellites make about 6-8 passes per day for 10 minutes each. For the satellite to determine the location of the transmitter it takes about 3-5 minutes, and the transmitter must be on the surface to be detected. However turtles rarely remain on the surface for that long, and their surfacing must coincide with the satellite passing overhead. Thus it is uncommon to receive a location from a turtle every day.
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