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RIT researchers use NASA grant to develop software for satellite

Rochester Institute of Technology researchers have developed a solution to help NASA’s Landsat 8 Earth-sensing satellite, officials announced Wednesday.

Senior scientists Aaron Gerace and Matt Montanaro, from RIT’s Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science, developed software that improves the accuracy of the Landsat 8 data, officials said.

NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey have approved the algorithm that will automatically process and correct Landsat 8 images and refine reprocessed data, officials said.

NASA gave the team at RIT an $86,000 grant for research on the project.

“Matt and Aaron were the developers, tuners and testers of the algorithm and its parameters,” said Brian Markham, Landsat Calibration Scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. “The algorithm provides clear improvement in the image quality of the TIRS data and the ability to get accurate temperature measurements of Earth targets, such as lakes, particularly those surrounded by areas of different temperatures. This is important when you are trying to determine if targets are warming or cooling over time.”

Stray light in the thermal infrared sensor, or TIRS, reduces accurate temperature measurements of the Earth’s surface, officials say. When optics are defective within the TIRS, unwanted light enters the system, changing the accuracy of measurements. Errors have reached as high as 10 degrees in Celsius.

“Everything you look at with Landsat 8 in the thermal infrared bands appears warmer than it should,” Gerace said. “By implementing this fix, people can do accurate science because the temperatures coming from whatever they’re looking at is correct now.”

Gerace and Montanaro have created a new method for addressing the inaccuracy developing a data processing algorithm to estimate the precise amount of extra light in each scene, officials said.

“The idea was that if you could determine from where the stray light is coming from and how much we’re seeing, then you can use that information as a satellite flies over the scene to determine the stray light,” Gerace said in a statement. “Our algorithm—adaptively per scene—figures out how much it should subtract to make the temperature accurate.”

Late this year the U.S. Geological Survey Earth Resources Observation and Science Center in Sioux Falls, S.D., will begin using the software correction in its operational processing of Landsat 8 data.

Follow Kerry Feltner on Twitter: @KerryFeltner

(c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail [email protected]

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