Saturday, May 19, 2012

Unparalleled views of earth's coast with HREP-HICO

NASA: Scanning the globe from the vantage point of the International Space Station is about more than the fantastic view. While cruising in low Earth orbit, the space station HICO and RAIDS Experiment Payload–Hyperspectral Imager for the Coastal Ocean, or HREP-HICO, gives researchers a valuable new way to view the coastal zone.

Using an imaging spectrometer mounted outside the station on the Japanese Exposed Facility of the Kibo Laboratory, researchers are collecting data about the Earth that will help them to better understand coastal environments and other regions around the world.

Why is this important? Coastal waters are an important link between local and global economic development and environmental sustainability. Coastal zones support many of the world's major cities (and their industrial zones, ports, recreational facilities); they also include critical ecosystems that support fisheries and protect shorelines.

HREP-HICO is a visible to near-infrared wavelength spectrometer optimized for environmental characterization of coastal zones and mapping of terrestrial geophysical features of the Earth. Mike Corson, Ph.D., principal investigator for HREP-HICO at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., explained that "Coastal environmental characterization includes producing maps of near-shore bathymetry, water clarity, organic and inorganic dissolved and suspended matter and bottom characteristics…. Such maps are important to Navy and Marine Corps who operate in coastal areas."

...Taking images of the ocean, however, is harder than it seems. As the first space-borne imaging spectrometer designed to sample the coastal ocean, HREP-HICO has to account for the vast breadth of global coastlines, the complex makeup of the ocean, changing weather conditions, and the location of the sun. These challenges can easily obscure views of the water and the sea floor -- yielding poor and incomprehensible imagery...

Image from NASA

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