Remote Sensing: Earth or Asteroid, It’s All About Instruments

Remote sensing is the science of gathering information about objects from a distance, typically from a satellite or aircraft.  Instruments mounted on satellites collect information using different wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum to characterize the size, shape, temperature, moisture, vegetative state, habitation, and other parameters of the planet’s surface.  Some instruments cast a laser down to and time its return to measure distance or detect energy that is reflected from the Earth’s surface.  Some remote sensing instruments are like cameras and take visible images of the Earth or atmosphere.

Some instruments are capable of detecting low levels of visible/near-infrared radiance at night from surfaces that are lit up by moonlight and lightning.  These instruments collect and distribute remotely-sensed land, ocean, and atmospheric data to the meteorological and climatic users and communities.  They can detect city lights, power outages, highways, fires, gas flares from oil refineries, and even detect high volumes of nighttime fishing vessels.

INNOVIM works on the development, calibration, and operation of many such Earth observation instruments. Scientists and engineers have achieved incredibly sophisticated methods of evaluating what’s happening on the ground from hundreds and thousands of miles up in orbit. These methods aren’t just useful here on Earth, either. The same types of sensors and the correlations we uncover on this planet can be used to study distant planets, asteroids, and stars as well. We learn the contours of asteroids using radar, we perform spectral analysis on Mars’ atmosphere to learn its history, and we image the surface of the Moon, strip by strip. All these measurements and the discoveries they spawn start as an instrument here on Earth, measuring Earth. We think it’s pretty exciting to be a part of that.