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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.

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March 7, 2011

Infrared Camera Finds First Extraterrestrial Rain

As astronomers will tell you, the only visible region of Saturn’s smoggy moon of Titan is the desert like region located at the equator which has giant sand dunes (50 miles long, half mile wide and 900 feet high). What is known about Titan is that it’s around 290 degrees Fahrenheit below zero causing the regions of extreme cold located at the north and south poles to form thousands of lakes of super-chilled hydrocarbons.

Recently, scientists from Johns Hopkins University studied infrared time lapsed images of Titan’s sand dunes using NASA’s Cassini satellite’s infrared camera, as it has recently become spring on Titan. Scientists noticed decreases in the brightness of the moon’s surface after clouds had swept over the equatorial region. After close study they were able to find infrared images confirmed methane rain was present leaving areas the size of Arizona and New Mexico combined wet.  The Cassini probe has given proof that Titan has seasonal climate similar to Earth.  Instead of water, as on Earth, Titan’s cycles of precipitation and cloud formation involve hydrocarbons methane and ethane.  No word if these methane rain showers cause rives to form.  Due to Titan’s location in the outer solar system scientists have 7.5 years to figure it out, as spring comes every 30 years. [See video above.]


January 5, 2011

New Drone Can See ‘Everything’, Not One Fixed Target

Drone Gorgon Stare

By contrast to drones used today, using one camera only, the Air Force has announced that it will be deploying in Afghanistan a new weapon of airborne surveillance: ‘Gorgon Stare’. This new aircraft has nine cameras, including thermal imaging, and will be able to transmit up to 65 different images to up to 9 different users.  “With five electro-optical and four infrared cameras packed into each array, the system was designed to stitch a broad mosaic together, allowing several commanders on the ground to simultaneously grab slices of that bigger picture.”  The live video stream will transmit enemy movements for analysts to study or for soldiers to tap into immediately with a portable device the size of an ipad to track ground movements. Soldiers will know how a mission is going or when the optimal time to start a campaign of engagement – live.  Match the data with ‘boots on the ground’ in strategic places a new ground game is born “at the speed of war.”  Since the city is under constant surveillance and being recorded, analysts can go back to study who planted the latest IED, or if there is a pattern along a particular road.  As a bonus, because this small aircraft will be looking at an entire city at once, there will be no way for the adversary to know what the target is.

The Air Force is looking to mount wide-area surveillance cameras on airships that can stay aloft for up to two weeks. Each $17.5 million plane weighs 1,100 pounds, and because of its configuration will not be mounted with weapons.  They also envision it having civilian applications, including securing borders and aiding in natural disasters.

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