Remote Sensing and Image Analysis for Earth and Planetary Science

To Register, click here.

Short Course - Remote Sensing and Image Analysis for Earth and Planetary Science

Course Code: PLANETSC 9606L

Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration (CPSX), Dept. of Earth Sciences - University of Western Ontario

Contacts: Dr. Catherine Neish (; +1-519-661-2111 ext-83188) and Dr. Livio Tornabene (; +1-519-661-2111 ext-81506)

When:  June 25-30, 2018
Where: University of Western Ontario, Biological and Geological Sciences (BGS)

  • Lecture: BGS1053
  • Lab: BGS0184


No specific prerequisites are required, but previous enrollment in at least one Earth Science or Planetary Science course is generally required. Please speak to the instructors if you have any concerns or are seeking an exception. 

Course Objectives

The main objective of this course is to learn the technical and conceptual basis for applying remote sensing and image analysis to Earth and Planetary Science. During this course you will also:

  • Learn how the various wavelength ranges of the electromagnetic spectrum interact with matter, specifically pertaining to terrestrial and planetary applications (i.e.,  geologic processes and materials) and what their basic sensitivities and limitations are.
  • Learn how to find, process, visualize, analyze and synthesize remote sensing observations for a wide variety of datasets.
  • Gain practical hands-on experience in applying the learned knowledge, methods and techniques to diverse terrestrial and planetary datasets.
  • Learn how to utilize software packages commonly used in remote sensing studies (e.g., ENVI, ArcGIS, etc.).

Course Description

This is an intensive 6-day short course for graduate students, researchers, industry, and government employees about remote sensing, image processing, and its applications in Earth and planetary science. The course will feature overview lectures on remote sensing, as well as hands-on exercises using remote sensing datasets and geological maps. Emphasis will be on the “core” remote sensing datasets, including visible to near-infrared, thermal infrared, and RADAR imagery, as well as elevation data (i.e., topography, morphometry and 3D analysis).  This course is intended to provide the non-specialist with a working knowledge of the background and analytical tools needed when working with various types of remote sensing data. The labs will use software packages such as ENVI+IDL (Harris Geospatial Solutions), JMARS and ArcGIS.

Course Schedule/Timetable




June 25, 2018


Welcome and Course Introduction

Lecture 1: General introduction to Remote Sensing (L.L. Tornabene)

Lab 1: Introduction to image visualization and manipulation using ENVI

June 26, 2018


Lecture 2: Remote Sensing: Reflectance and Emission Spectroscopy (L.L. Tornabene)

Lab 2: Image processing and spectral analysis using ENVI software

June 27, 2018


Lecture 3: Remote Sensing:  Various topics (L.L. Tornabene

Lab 2: Image processing and spectral analysis using ENVI software (continued) and introduction to JMARS

June 28, 2018


Lecture 4: Remote Sensing: RADAR (C. Neish)

Lab 3:  Radar remote sensing of the Earth and Moon 

June 29, 2018


Lecture 5: Data integration and synthesis (C. Neish/L.L. Tornabene)

Lab 4: JMARS and Lunar Case Study

June 30, 2018


Catch-Up Day


Detailed Time Table

9:00-11:20 am

Lecture and Quiz* (BGS1053)

11:20-11:30 am


11:30-12:00 pm

Lab: Set-up (BGS0184)

12:00-1:15 pm

Lunch break (BGS1053)

1:15-5:00 pm

Lab (BGS0184)

*No quiz on Day 1; See more details on quizzes below


Additional details on course topics:

Lecture 1: General introduction to Remote Sensing

  • Course overview: Introduce course and logistics
  • Electromagnetic radiation and matter
  • Basics of remote sensing datasets
  • Image basics and processing

Lecture 2: Remote Sensing: Reflectance and Emission Spectroscopy

  • Introduction and Basics of Visible and Near-Infrared (VNIR) and Thermal Infrared (TIR) EM interactions with Matter
    • Atmospheric Limitations and Effects
    • Rocks and Minerals… and limitations for ID
    • Vegetation and Water

Lecture 3: Remote Sensing: Various Topics

  • Other uses for Thermal Infrared Data (temperature, thermal inertia, etc.)
  • Introduction and Basics of Cosmic-Ray Spectroscopy
  • Available multispectral sensors for the Earth and other planets

Lecture 4:  Remote sensing: RADAR

  • Microwave to Radio EM Interactions with Matter
  • Radar techniques: Imagery, sounding, and topography
  • Target properties: Radar albedo and polarimetry
  • Radar measurements of planetary bodies

Lecture 5:  Data integration and synthesis: JMARS

  • GIS: JMARS Introduction and Tutorial
  • Where to get data (Both Planetary and Terrestrial)

Course Format

Each session will feature a series of presentations by the instructor, as well as tutorials and hands-on exercises during the laboratory sessions.

Course Materials

The following references are recommended readings and can be used as guides during the duration of the course. Content covered in these lectures will form the basis for practical tutorials and exercises.


Drury, S. A. (2001). Image interpretation in geology (p. 304). London: Blackwell Science.

Pieters, C. M., & Englert, P. A. (1993). Remote geochemical analysis, elemental and mineralogical composition (Vol. 1).

Longley, P. A., Goodchild, M. et al. (multiple editions) Geographic Information Systems and Science.

Campbell, B.A. (2002) Radar remote sensing of planetary surfaces.


JMARS is a free planetary GIS package, which provides instant access to planetary data for almost every object visited by spacecraft in our Solar System. It is highly recommended that you download from this link ( Extensive tutorials for visualizing planetary datasets, and some basic instructions on data manipulation, can be found here:

This YouTube playlist ( can familiarize participants with the basic tools/features of ArcMap v.10.

Course Evaluation and Course Credit Format

This one-week course is a 0.5 FCE credit. Students registered in the course will be evaluated as follows:

Laboratory Exercises* (4 labs at 20% of the total grade) 80%
In Class Quizzes** (4 quizzes; 5% each)  20%

(*Due by the end of the course; **With the exception of the first day, a short quiz will be administered during the first 10-15 min of class for a total of 4 quizzes. You are responsible for providing your own paper and writing utensil, so please make sure you have these for class!) 

Students from any university are eligible to take the course and may receive credit in their respective institutions, subject to approval from their home Department.

***Special NOTES on course credit (Please read carefully):

If you are a Western student who seeks permission to take this graduate level course (i.e., its outside your major/program), you will need to fill out this form to get the relevant approvals to receive a grade in the course:

If you are a non-Western student, but from a University in Ontario, who seeks permission to get the relevant approvals to receive a credit for taking this course. We advise that you use this form, and inquire of your home institution if there are any additional steps to take for receiving full-credit for the course. For instructions on submission of this form, please contact us at

For non-Ontario students, note that Western is a member of CAGS (Canadian Association for Graduate Studies). With the approval of their program and faculty, non-Ontario students registered in a program at a CAGS member university (the home institution) may take courses for credit at Western (the host institution). The only documentation required is a single-page request form that is completed by the Deans and Graduate Chairs of the host and home institutions. Please note that students in course-based programs are NOT permitted to take more than two half-courses at another institution.

For professionals, a certificate of completion is available upon request at the end of the course.

Course Fees and Registration

Professionals, international students and Non-Ontario Canadians (i.e., students that do attend a university in Ontario) must pay the course fees to attend.

Canadian University (non-Ontario) Graduate Students = $500.00

International Students = $800.00

Professionals  = $1400.00

Western is subsidized by the Ontario Provincial Government; as such, Western Students are exempt from paying course fees according to Ontario provincial law. Payment is expected before the first day of class.

Use the following link for registration and payment:

Academic Honesty Statements and Absences

Assignments: Assignments must be submitted electronically on the assigned due date and will not be accepted late, expect under medical or other compassionate circumstances (see below). Submitting a late assignment without appropriate documentation will result in a zero (0) grade.

Accessibility: Please contact the course instructor if you require material in an alternate format or if any other arrangements can make this course more accessible to you. You may also wish to contact Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) at 519-661-2111 x 82147 for any specific question regarding an accommodation.

Absences/Missed Exams/Assignments: If you are unable to meet a course requirement due to illness or other serious circumstances, you must provide valid medical or other supporting documentation to the Dean's office as soon as possible and contact your instructor immediately. It is the student's responsibility to make alternative arrangements with their instructor once the accommodation has been approved and the instructor has been informed. In the event of a missed final exam, a "Recommendation of Special Examination" form must be obtained from the Dean's Office immediately. For further information please see:

A student requiring academic accommodation due to illness should use the Student Medical Certificate when visiting an off-campus medical facility or request a Records Release Form (located in the Dean's Office) for visits to Student Health Services. The form can be found here:

Academic misconduct: Academic Scholastic offences are taken seriously and students are directed to read the appropriate policy, specifically, the definition of what constitutes a Scholastic Offence, at the following Web site:

All required papers may be subject to submission for textual similarity review to the commercial plagiarism detection software under license to the University for the detection of plagiarism. All papers submitted for such checking will be included as source documents in the reference database for the purpose of detecting plagiarism of papers subsequently submitted to the system. Use of the service is subject to the licensing agreement, currently between The University of Western Ontario and ( Computer-marked multiple-choice tests and/or exams may be subject to submission for similarity review by software that will check for unusual coincidences in answer patterns that may indicate cheating.