Remote Sensing of the Earth & Planets (GEOL1710) Syllabus

Download This Syllabus:  GEOL1710_Syllabus_Fall2017.pdf


Tuesday & Thursday   2:30-3:50 p.m.


Lincoln Field 209 / BERT (85 Waterman) Earth Lab

Office Hours:

T  10:00-12:00 or by appointment, Lincoln Field 318


Dr. Ralph Milliken

Box 1846




There is no required textbook to purchase for this course, but there will be various papers, handouts, and articles that students are responsible for reading. All required reading materials will be distributed in class or via e-mail as well as posted on the course website.


This course consists of lectures, class discussion, homework assignments/computer labs, and a final project. The content will provide students with a basic background in spectroscopy and remote sensing principles that are used for Earth and planetary applications. Topics include a) physical principles involved in remote sensing techniques, b) interaction of electromagnetic radiation with matter, c) science objectives and instrumentation of several current and planned planetary missions, d) approaches to remote analysis of the composition of planetary surfaces, e) imaging spectroscopy, and f) analytical approaches to remote sensing.

This course is designed for students interested in learning how to use and interpret satellite data acquired for Earth and other bodies in the Solar System, with an emphasis on spectroscopy at visible, near-infrared, and thermal wavelengths. Students will learn about state-of-the art remote sensing methods and basic concepts of how to use such data to derive information about the composition of planetary surfaces.


The course is taught at an entry graduate/upper undergraduate level. Prerequisites include a basic understanding of computers, mineralogy/petrology, chemistry, and introductory physics. GEOL1410, CHEM0100, PHYS0050 or equivalent or permission of instructor.


Homework/Labs                                 75%

Final Project                                          25%

Total                                                     100%



Throughout the semester there will be 10 homework/computer lab assignments related to spectroscopy and analysis of remotely-sensed data. You will have 1 week to complete each assignment. A 10% reduction in total credit will be assessed for each day an assignment is overdue (e.g., 1 day late = max credit of 90%, 2 days late = max credit of 80%, etc.). Many of the homework assignments will consist of computer lab exercises that will be started in class but that each student must complete on his/her own time. These computer lab assignments will be started during class in the Earth Lab in the BERT building (85 Waterman). The final reports for each lab will vary in length depending on the number of questions and topics. Completed assignments must be sent to the instructor via e-mail (PDF) the day they are due. Students are encouraged to use figures/plots in their work to help illustrate their responses. These homework/lab assignments are a significant portion of the overall grade, so please manage your time accordingly to ensure that they are completed in a detailed and coherent manner!


The culmination of this course will be a final project that integrates all that you have learned over the course of the semester in terms of data processing and analysis. This will be a project that is defined by the instructor, it is not an independent research project defined by the student. As an example, the project might entail accessing, downloading, processing (from raw to calibrated state), and analyzing spectral data from a NASA mission to address a question or series of questions related to the geological evolution of a planetary body. Students may be required to write their own code (in MATLAB) and should be prepared to submit that code as part of their completed project. Students are welcome to discuss the projects with each other and to help troubleshoot issues that arise, but each student is responsible for completing the work his/herself. The assignment will be provided to each student on Tuesday, Nov. 28 and will be due by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 18.