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By Lumistar's Chief Scientist

April 15, 2016

New Generation Infrared Satellites Discover Shipwrecks

Infrared Shipreck

Researchers have found shipwrecks near the coast can leave sediment plumes that can be detected by infrared satellites looking on the water’s surface which can reveal their location. The joint venture NASA/USGS Landsat 8 satellite, put into space in 2013, was recently utilized in a study to see if it could spot watery graves of shipwrecks by detecting sediment plumes in shallow water less than 50 feet (15 m) with plumes extending as far as 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) downstream. Researchers used atmospherically corrected Landsat 8 reflectance data from OLI 4 (red band) and OLI 5 (infrared band). An estimated 3 million shipwrecks are scattered across the planet’s oceans.

Sediment plumes must reach the surface in order to be detected by infrared. The researchers postulated that the exposed underwater structures have created scour pits in the seafloor that fill with fine sediments (sand, clay, organic matter) during slack tides, the period of relatively still water. These scour pits become repositories from which sediments are re-suspended during flood and ebb tides. When these sediments reach the surface, they create their telltale plumes.

Typically these shallow, sediment-rich areas near shore were hazards to navigation due to reasons such as shallow water hazards rocks and reefs, which can cause catastrophic damage to vessels either in a storm or as a result of navigational error. Also, historically, military and pirate activity typically took place near shore.

This discovery demonstrates for the first time how Landsat and Landsat-like infrared satellites may be used for marine archeology. For example, the newly recovered ships may be a discovery of historical significance. Another potential uses is if the hard substrate of the ship has created a reef, it can be of great ecological significance. Also, modern-era shipwrecks are commonly sources of pollution, leaking onboard fuel and corroded heavy metals which can be studied for their ecological impact or cleaned up. Newly discovered underwater shipwrecks could also be added to navigation charts, as unknown underwater shipwrecks are potential hazards for commercial shipping routes. …Or this technology can be used for treasure hunters, what else? Let’s not try and sugar coat it, or in this case sediment coat it.
Credits: NASA/USGS Landsat/NASA Earth Observatory

December 15, 2015

Christmas Shown From Space Using Infrared Process

Nasa Photo of Christmas Lights

New photos created from NASA’s Suomi NPP satellite, shows the extent of holiday light displays in the U.S. compared to the rest of the year. By comparing the light from the Christmas holiday with the rest of the year, the differential is extracted and shown on the map. Scientists found that nighttime lights around major U.S. cities shone 20 percent to 50 percent brighter around Christmas. Dark green in the key is used to indicate areas where lights have the largest gain mostly suburbs being 50 percent brighter in December. The images released were taken between 2012 and 2013 and include 70 American cities. The difference is most pronounced in suburbs and small towns where residents have bigger yards and bigger homes. Lights were brightest between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

The Suomi NPP weather satellite, launched in 2011, has a sounder infrared spectrometer named Cross-track Infrared Sounder (CrIS), and a scanning radiometer named Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS). Since 1980, polar-orbiting weather satellites have included both imagers and sounders. These types of sensors record data continuously, using different wavelengths to infer information on a global scale.

The CrIS sounder infrared spectrometer is an instrument measuring temperature and water vapor as a function of different heights within the atmosphere. The scanner collects multiple spectral data via 1,305 separated spectral channels (sensors), internally separating infrared energy into wavelengths, similar to a weather balloon. CrIS produces high-resolution, three-dimensional temperature, pressure, and moisture profiles. These profiles are used to enhance weather forecasting models, and they will facilitate both short- and long-term weather forecasting.

The VIIRS uses radiometric and infrared imaging, thereby using a color pallet to ‘paint’ polarized heat images by assigning color to each heat temperature, which is the sole instrument used to create the above map. VIIRS collects visible and infrared imagery and radiometric measurements of the land, atmosphere, cryosphere, and oceans. VIIRS data is used to measure cloud and aerosol properties, ocean color, sea and land surface temperature, ice motion and temperature, fires, and Earth’s albedo. VIIRS can record infrared light even in the presence of clouds, moonlight and air particles.

Together VIIRS and CrIS combine infrared instruments and can determine cloud top height and thermodynamic phase (ice or water particles), and make estimates of microphysical and optical properties that indicate the amount of water and ice in the cloud layer. The Suomi NPP satellite is the result of a partnership between NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Department of Defense.

Learn More Here

August 15, 2015

NASA Uses Infrared Camera To Measure Pluto’s Ice

pluto infrared spectral image

When New Horizons spacecraft passed Pluto on 14 July, is equipped with an infrared camera as part of the Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA). LEISA is a spectrometer on New Horizons’ Ralph instrument, that operates in 256 near infrared (NIR) wavelengths between 1.25-2.50 micrometers. The Ralph instrument combines visible imagery from the Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) with infrared spectroscopy from LEISA.

A little background: Spectroscopy, the measurement of radiation intensity as a function of wavelength, is used in physical and analytical chemistry because atoms and molecules have unique spectra or ‘code’. The measured spectra are used to determine the chemical composition and physical properties of astronomical objects. LEISA uses infrared spectroscopy using an infrared camera detector or spectrometer, to capture the longer invisible infrared wavelengths of near infrared NIR (vs. sometimes using shorter wavelengths of optical light) and in this case using multi-band infrared sub-wavelengths to derive the chemical composition ‘code’ of a distant celestial body.

The above map represents just three of those 256 NIR wavelengths, as more data has yet to be beamed back to Earth, in a slow process that will last through 2016. The bright blue, red, black, and green pixels — overlaid on a LORRI basemap, represent methane ice accumulations as derived from infrared spectroscopy. Three colors on the map represent the three wavelengths data transmitted to date. The color red was chosen to map the longest infrared wavelength thus far (2.30 to 2.33 micrometers), followed by green (1.97 to 2.05 micrometers), and blue at the short end of infrared (1.62 to 1.70 micrometers). From what scientists are observing from the Ralph instrument, Pluto is abundant in methane ice, but it is unevenly distributed, for which they lack understanding. Methane changes from gas to liquid to ice as the temperature drops. On relatively warm Earth methane takes form of a gas, on Saturn’s moon Titan methane is a liquid sea, and on distant and very cold Pluto, methane has become thick mountainous patches of ice. Pluto’s equatorial patches are so reddish-brown dark in optical light they have shallow infrared absorption. But in the north polar cap, methane ice is diluted in a thick, transparent slab of nitrogen ice resulting in strong absorption of infrared light.

For the first time in history we have images near Pluto. Pluto has come as a surprise with it’s giant heart shape on the surface, its reddish color like Mars but for a different reason, the fact it could be geologically active to this day which is a mystery why, incredible mountain ranges and glaciers that look surprisingly like Earth’s, its strange snake skin like terrain shaped by its alien hydrological glacial cycle (it snows nitrogen), Pluto’s daily weather changes, and a 12 layer nitrogen/methane atmosphere. A different instrument, Alice, will beam back separate data about Pluto’s atmosphere. Not too long ago, all that was known about Pluto was represented by a distant blue dot. Bottom line: Pluto’s ice is more diverse than anticipated to say the least.

Note: Spectroscopic studies were central to the development of quantum mechanics and included Max Planck’s explanation of blackbody radiation, Albert Einstein’s explanation of the photoelectric effect and Niels Bohr’s explanation of atomic structure and spectra.

October 15, 2013

Pink Alien Planet Photographed With Infrared Camera

Lumistar Blog

Photo: Glowing a dark magenta, this image is an artist’s representation of the alien world. Click picture for greater detail. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/S. Wiessinger

Astronomers have snapped a photo, using NIR cameras, of a pink alien world that’s the smallest (lowest-mass) exoplanet yet found around a star like our own sun. The proper name for this alien planet is GJ 504b, is cold with few clouds and it likely has a dark magenta hue, infrared data from the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii revealed. “If we could travel to this giant planet, we would see a world still glowing from the heat of its formation with a color reminiscent of a dark cherry blossom, a dull magenta,” study researcher Michael McElwain, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., said in a statement from the space agency.

Although the gas planet is the smallest ever found around a sun-like star, it’s still huge — about four times the size of our solar system’s gas giant Jupiter. It lies nearly 44 Earth-sun distances from its central star, far beyond the system’s habitable zone. The newly found ‘pink planet’ has cause for alarm for scientists as it challenges common held beliefs in traditional models on how planets are formed due to its size and massive distance from it’s host star.


Though it is the smallest alien world caught on camera around a sun-like star, the gas planet around GJ 504 is still huge — about four times the size of Jupiter. It lies nearly 44 Earth-sun distances from its central star, far beyond the system’s habitable zone, and it has an effective temperature of about 460 degrees Fahrenheit (237 Celsius), according to the researchers’ estimates. – See more at:
Though it is the smallest alien world caught on camera around a sun-like star, the gas planet around GJ 504 is still huge — about four times the size of Jupiter. It lies nearly 44 Earth-sun distances from its central star, far beyond the system’s habitable zone, and it has an effective temperature of about 460 degrees Fahrenheit (237 Celsius), according to the researchers’ estimates. – See more at: