AER 102: Remote Sensing and Mesospheric Modeling

AER 102: Remote Sensing and Mesospheric Modeling

AER 102 provides PoSSUM students a basic proficiency in programming and gain an understanding remote sensing techniques including light detection and ranging (lidar), radar, and computer vision in the context of emerging technologies such as autonomous navigation and terrain modelling as well as a review & extension of Project PoSSUM aeronomy collection & processing efforts.



AER 102 provides an introduction to multiple topics and concepts in remote sensing. Each topic is first presented generally, then through the lens of how it can be applied to the aeronomy goals of Project PoSSUM. The course will emphasize basic principles, interspersed with some Python code examples and discussion of implementation strategies.


  • PoSSUM Academy or PoSSUM Scientist-Astronaut Candidate
  • AER 101 Space Environment
  • Familiarity with trigonometry, algebra, and differential & integral calculus
  • Knowledge of a programming language at an introductory/novice level (Python, R, MATLAB, IDL)


There is no specific textbook for the course. Readings will be provided to the students as necessary, except in cases where an assignment requests the student to select a work of their own choosing. However, there are several books that are excellent general resources that cover many of the course topics, and are recommended by the instructor. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Lillesand, T., Kiefer, R. W., & Chipman, J. (2015). Remote sensing and image interpretation. John Wiley & Sons.    
  • Schott, J. R. (2007). Remote sensing: the image chain approach. Oxford University Press on Demand.


  1. Introduction
    1. What is remote sensing, and why do we need it for aeronomy?
    2. Important Moments in Remote Sensing History
  2. “Traditional” Imaging: Cameras
    1. Apertures: Pinholes vs Lenses (example: PMC-Turbo)
    2. Exposure
    3. Bayer patterns
    4. Spatial sampling theorem (Nyquist)
  3. Photogrammetry
    1. Mono techniques
    2. Stereo techniques
  4. Radiometry & Calibration
    1. Atmospheric absorption and transmittance
    2. Planck’s Law
    3. Radiometric Calibration
      1. Types of atmospheric models (i.e., MODTRAN & similar vs NRLMSISE-00)
      2. Exoplanetary atmospheric models
  5. Noise
    1. Sources (environmental, electronic, physical, etc.)
    2. Statistical representations
    3. Mitigation strategies
  6. Image Processing
    1. Data management
    2. File formatting
    3. Kernels & Band Math
  7. Spectroscopy & Polarimetry
    1. What are they, and why do we need them for aeronomy? 
  8. Active Systems: Radar
    1. Basic history & principles of radar
    2. System examples
    3. Radar and aeronomy
  9. Active Systems: Lidar
    1. Basic history & principles of lidar
    2. System examples
    3. Lidar and aeronomy
  10. Wrap-up


Homework for the course will consist of a mix of written summaries based on literature review and light mathematical derivations and computation. Potential homework assignments include:

  • Read an overview paper for a well-known remote sensing platform or satellite, and write a one to two page summary describing the remote sensing principles by which at least one of the associated sensors operate. (This assignment might be given 2-3 times, with a different platform/modality each time)    
  • Write a function to compute a blackbody curve based on Planck’s Law
  • Write a function to compute the height of a point observed from a stereo image pair of known geometries
  • Write a function to iterate input parameters for an atmospheric model

Course assignments also include a final project, which will consist of a student-selected topic in remote sensing and/or aeronomy in which the student will address a problem or explore nuances of processing remotely sensed data, whether through code or third party software (such as ENVI, ESA SNAP, or ImageJ). The student will complete a written one page proposal at some point during the course, with a final report approximately five pages in length turned in with source code (or a flowchart of steps taken in third party software) at the end of the course.

2021 Course Schedule


17apr(apr 17)6:30 pm21(apr 21)5:00 pmPoSSUM Scientist-Astronaut Class 2001 and 2002

19apr(apr 19)8:00 am23(apr 23)5:00 pm2020 PoSSUM Academy - Red Sprite Group

24apr(apr 24)6:30 pm28(apr 28)5:00 pmPoSSUM Scientist-Astronaut Class 2003 and 2101

26apr(apr 26)8:00 am30(apr 30)5:00 pm2020 PoSSUM Academy - Blue Jet Group


03may(may 3)8:00 am07(may 7)5:00 pmFeaturedBIO 103 Microgravity Research CampaignMicrogravity Research Campaign supporting the IIAS BIO 103 Program

08may(may 8)8:00 am12(may 12)5:00 pmOPS 102 Spacecraft Egress and Rescue Operations On-SiteOn-site compliment to OPS 102 course providing aircraft egress and sea survial training to complement post-landing human space flight system engineering instruction

13may(may 13)8:00 am16(may 16)5:00 pmFeaturedBIO 104: Advanced Egress - Spacesuit Landing and Post-Landing Testing

25may(may 25)8:00 am28(may 28)5:00 pmEVA 102 Operational Space Medicine Field CampaignField component to cover wilderness medicine in extreme environments, culminating with a 4-day on-site lab portion devoted to triage, scenarios and skills pertaining to wilderness medicine

29may01junEVA 103 Planetary Field Geology Field CampaignEVA 103 course covers the requirements and design considerations for EVA systems and tools for conducting planetary field geology


06jun(jun 6)8:00 am12(jun 12)5:00 pmFTE 102 Fixed-Wing Performance Flight Test CampaignOn-Site compliment to FTE 102 Fixed-Wing Performance Flight Testing using Turbo Mooney aircraft.

13jun(jun 13)8:00 am19(jun 19)5:00 pmFTE 103 Fixed-Wing Stability and Control Flight Test CampaignOn-Site compliment to the FTE 102 Fixed-Wing Stability and Control Flight Test Course using Turbo Mooney, Piper Twin, and Pitts S2B aircraft.


10julAll Day20FeaturedAER 103 Noctilucent Cloud Imagery Field Research CampaignField campaign as part of AER 103, Airborne Noctilucent Cloud Imagery course to study noctilucent cloud formations through coordinated ground, airborne, and balloon observations.

© 2020 International Institute for Astronautical Sciences