Scanner eyes Earth's coastlines from space

March 24, 2011 at 9:01 PM

CORVALLIS, Ore., March 24 (UPI) -- Images of Earth's coastal regions from a space-borne scanner are helping scientists monitor events from oil spills to plankton blooms, U.S. researchers say.

Scientists at Oregon State University say the Hyperspectral Imager for the Coastal Ocean aboard the International Space Station is the first space-borne sensor created specifically for observing the coastal ocean, an OSU release said Thursday.

It will allow scientists to better analyze human impacts and climate-change effects on the world's coastal regions, Curtiss O. Davis, an OSU oceanographer and the project scientist, said.

"What HICO does that other ocean imaging systems like NASA's MODIS cannot is provide color sensor data down to the human scale," Davis said. "Whereas the normal resolution for an ocean imager is about one kilometer, HICO provides resolution down to 90 meters.

"It is a scientific treasure trove for the coastal oceanographer," he said.

Developed by the Naval Research Laboratory, the sophisticated imaging system was installed aboard the space station in 2009.

Its development was an experiment to see if engineers could create an instrument very quickly, at low cost, and make it work for a year, said Davis, who worked for several years at the laboratory before joining the OSU faculty.

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