The Coastal Research Imaging Spectrometer (CRIS) is an airborne remote sensing system designed specifically for research on the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of coastal waters. The CRIS includes a visible-light hyperspectral imaging subsystem for measuring the color of water, which contains information on the biota, sediment, and nutrient contents of the water. The CRIS also includes an infrared imaging subsystem, which provides information on the temperature of the water. The combination of measurements enables investigation of biological effects of both natural and artificial flows of water from land into the ocean, including diffuse and point-source flows that may contain biological and/or chemical pollutants. Temperature is an important element of such measurements because temperature contrasts can often be used to distinguish among flows from different sources: for example, a sewage outflow could manifest itself in spectral images as a local high-temperature anomaly.

Both the visible and infrared subsystems scan in "pushbroom" mode: that is, an aircraft carrying the system moves along a ground track, the system is aimed downward, and image data are acquired in across-track linear arrays of pixels. Both subsystems operate at a frame rate of 30 Hz. The infrared and visible-light optics are adjusted so that both subsystems are aimed at the same moving swath, which has across-track angular width of 15°. Data from the infrared and visible imaging subsystems are stored in the same file along with aircraft-position data acquired by a Global Positioning System receiver. The combination of the three sets of data is used to construct infrared and hyperspectral maps of scanned areas (see figure).

The visible subsystem is based on a grating spectrograph and a rapid-readout charge-coupled-device camera. Images of the swatch are acquired in 256 spectral bands at wavelengths from 400 to 800 nm. The infrared subsystem, which is sensitive in a single wavelength band of 8 to 10 µm, is based on a focal plane array of HgCdTe photodetectors that are cooled to an operating temperature of 77 K by use of a closed-Stirling-cycle mechanical cooler.

The nonuniformities of the HgCdTe photodetector array are small enough that the raw pixel data from the infrared subsystem can be used to recognize temperature differences on the order of 1 °C. By use of a built-in black body calibration source that can be switched into the field of view, one can obtain bias and gain offset terms for individual pixels, making it possible to offset the effects of nonuniformities sufficiently to enable the measurement of temperature differences as small as 0.1 °C.

This work was done by Paul G. Lucey, Timothy Williams, and Keith A. Horton of Pacific Island Technology, Inc., for Stennis Space Center. Inquiries concerning rights for the commercial use of this invention should be addressed to

the Intellectual Property Manager
Stennis Space Center
(228) 688-1929

Refer to SSC-00158


Photonics Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the July, 2004 issue of Photonics Tech Briefs Magazine.

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