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Satellite Earth Observation

Code: EGEO2004     Acronym: EGEO2004

Classification Keyword
OFICIAL Surveying Engineering

Instance: 2021/2022 - 1S

Active? Yes
Responsible unit: Department of Geosciences, Environment and Spatial Plannings
Course/CS Responsible: First Degree in Geospatial Engineering

Cycles of Study/Courses

Acronym No. of Students Study Plan Curricular Years Credits UCN Credits ECTS Contact hours Total Time
L:EG 7 The study plan from 2019 2 - 6 56 162

Teaching Staff - Responsibilities

Teacher Responsibility
Jose Carlos Pinto Bastos Teixeira Silva

Teaching - Hours

Theoretical classes: 2,00
Theoretical and practical : 2,00
Type Teacher Classes Hour
Theoretical classes Totals 1 2,00
Jose Carlos Pinto Bastos Teixeira Silva 2,00
Theoretical and practical Totals 1 2,00
Jose Carlos Pinto Bastos Teixeira Silva 2,00

Teaching language

Suitable for English-speaking students


In this Unit it is planned to introduce the essentials of Earth Observation recurring to electromagnetic radiation interacting with the surface of the Earth. The electromagnetic spectrum should cover different wavebands, from visible light to microwaves, and the Unit is intended as a prelude to other unit denominated “Remote Sensing” in the third year. Focus will be given to remote sensing of water and ocean surfaces and the atmosphere, by using mainly passive sensors.

It is required that the students:

1) Understand the potential of Earth Observation through Earth orbiting satellites, as well as its limitations. Address and comprehend the orbit characteristics of the mostly common used remote sensing satellites.

2) Acquire fundamental knowledge about techniques and methods to observe the surface of the Earth by measuring electromagnetic radiation.

3) Learn basic principles of remote sensing digital image analysis.

4) Become aware of the vast satellite data sets that are available, as well as their processing levels and products available online. The students should be able to recognize which products and processing levels are most adequate to the solution of an Earth Observation problem.

5) Be capable to use and understand satellite data, and prepared to acquire further knowledge in more advanced units in the course, such as the Unit “Remote Sensing”.

Learning outcomes and competences

The students should have been exposed to methods of structured computer programming before, with approval in at least one U.C..

Working method



1) Satellite orbits for Earth Observation: Kepler and Newton laws; the two-body problem, effects of the Earth’s oblateness and other actions that constrain Low Earth Orbits; numerical integration of equations of motion.

2) The electromagnetic Radiation (EM) in Earth Observation by satellite: black body, atmosphere and surface. Diffusion and absorption in the atmosphere and the ocean.

3) Multispectral sensors in the visible wavebands and infrared: ocean color and Sea Surface Temperature (SST); vegetation indexes; Land Surface Temperature (LST).

4) Basic notions of digital image processing: image enhancement, image histograms and geophysical parameters retrieved from satellite measurements; image filters.

Mandatory literature

Ian S. Robinson; Discovering the Ocean from Space (The unique applications of satellite oceanography), 2010. ISBN: 978-3-540-24430-1
Jensen John R.; Remote Sensing of the Environment: An Earth Resource Perspective., Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 2007. ISBN: 0-13-188950-8.

Complementary Bibliography

Martin Seelye; An introduction to ocean remote sensing. ISBN: 0-521-80280-6
Richards, J.A., Jia, X.; Remote Sensing Digital Image Analysis - An Introduction, Springer-Verlag, 2000
Gonzalez, R.C., Woods, R.E.; Digital Image Processing, Addison-Wesley, 2008

Teaching methods and learning activities

The theoretical Lectures are presented with aid to power point, and the most relevant aspects of the technique used in Earth Observation by satellite are explained in simple terms with examples. The concepts are introduced step by step with projects that are developed in the laboratory sessions (TPs). These projects address the practical application of digital image processing, which must include reading the original files available as products by Space Agencies (such as NASA, ESA, etc.). The students are motivated to write computer code and perform simple operations to observe satellite data in various ways and forms, in order to gain insight for image data interpretation. The evaluation of the knowledge gained by students is continuous and gradual, being made during the computer projects in every TP session. There is also a written test or/and exam to assess more general and theoretical concepts addressed in the theoretical Lectures. 




Natural sciences > Environmental science > Global change > Climate change
Technological sciences > Technology > Marine technology > Remote sensing: satelliteborne sensors, airborne
Technological sciences > Technology > Remote sensing

Evaluation Type

Distributed evaluation without final exam

Assessment Components

designation Weight (%)
Participação presencial 10,00
Trabalho laboratorial 40,00
Trabalho prático ou de projeto 50,00
Total: 100,00

Amount of time allocated to each course unit

designation Time (hours)
Trabalho laboratorial 9,00
Total: 9,00

Eligibility for exams

The students must submit at least three computer code assignments to solve proposed projects in remote sensing applications and using digital image processing techniques. In addition there is a computational project at the end of the semester to evaluate theoretical concepts about remote sensing techniques. 
A course project will be proposed to be handed in by the end of the semester.

Calculation formula of final grade

Evaluation requires two components: 1) Weekly computer programming in MATLAB (1/2); 2) Computer project at the end of semester (1/2); 

Examinations or Special Assignments


Internship work/project


Special assessment (TE, DA, ...)

Computer assignments + computer course projet in MATLAB.

Classification improvement

By taking an exame.

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