What is this picture?    

The Grand Canyon, as seen by a satellite. Click here for full resolution.

Why is it shown here?   

To advertise a course in Geology and Geophysics: 
Eye in the Sky: Monitoring the Earth by Satellite


How much work is it?   

Just two lectures a week for half a semester.
It is an 8-week modular class beginning week 10 of spring semester.

Any prerequisites?   


Open to freshmen?    



Kurt Feigl, Assoc. Professor
Department of Geology and Geophysics

How do I register?   

    Department:  (420) GEOLOGY & GEOPHYSICS 
        Course:  (118) Eye in the Sky: Monitoring the Earth by Satellite
       Session:  ( JGG) 7 WEEK SESSION MON MAR 24 - FRI MAY 9
        Number:  66130
           Day:  TR
          Time:  9:55 - 10:45
         Place:  140 WEEKS HALL

Click here for official entry in Time Table



Johnston, A. K., and National Air and Space Museum. (2004), Earth from space : Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, 272 p. pp., Firefly Books, Buffalo, N.Y. [$34 new; $18 used at Amazon]

Curator at the Smithsonian Institute, Andrew Johnston sheds light on the planet via an array of beautiful and enlightening satellite images. The book explains in exquisite detail how such images are utilized by scientists to learn about the earth's dynamic environment. The Washington Post named this text one of the best coffee table books of 2004.

Wanna see more images?

Click on the web interactive web site for the text book here.

Can you tell me more?

Here are some of the topics we will discuss: Current abilities, future potential, and limiting factors of satellite imagery. The importance of “ground truth” before drawing conclusions from remotely-sensed data. Examples of satellite imagery enabling earth science. How to view, manipulate, and interpret a satellite image. The global view. Scale and resolution. Tools of the trade. Interpreting satellite images as displays of quantitative information. Weather satellites. Multi-temporal imagery. Digital Elevation Models. Radar Altimetry. Dynamic Earth. Change detection. Pixel tracking. Radar Interferometry. Societal, political, and economic impact of satellite imagery.

Why should I take this course? Will it help me get a job?

Many jobs that study the Earth, its environment and anthropogenic impact on them, use remotely sensed imagery acquired by satellite. Applications range from scientific (e.g., measuring tectonic plates as they move) to the practical (“how do I get back to where I parked my car?”). If you want to apply these techniques (or supervise others to do so) in tomorrow’s world, you should understand the basic technical underpinnings of satellite imagery and tools like Google Earth. In particular, you should learn the limits of each type of imagery as well as the importance of corroborating “ground-truth” for drawing solid conclusions.

Don’t other courses teach this stuff?

Yes, but not at the elementary level. The following other courses are at an advanced ("300") level:
    Introduction to Remote Sensing
    Intermediate Remote Sensing
Geology and Geophysics 118 emphasizes the application of remotely-sensed satellite data for monitoring and understanding geophysical processes, whereas introductory courses in Geography (120, 127, 139, 170) consider the “historical, cultural, political, and technological contexts of how maps are made and used”.


Learning Objectives

How will students be evaluated?



List of Lecture Topics

Lecture Number Topic
1 Introduction: the global view. Scale and resolution.
2 Tools of the trade. Satellites. Wavelength. Orbits.
3 Interpreting optical images acquired by satellite
4 Living Planet (storms, reefs, coastlines, erosion)
5 Weather satellites. Multi-temporal imagery
6 Water and Ice (Flooding & tracking sea ice)
7 Interpreting radar images acquired by satellite
8 Structure of the Land (mountains, folds, faults, craters)
9 Digital Elevation Models and Altimetry (Tibetan Plateau, El Nino)
11 The Human Presence (ozone, pollution, climate change)
12 Dynamic Earth (earthquakes, volcanos)
13 Monitoring Earth by detecting changes over time
14 Societal; political; and economic impact of satellite imagery.

FINAL EXAM (code 22)