Galileo multispectral imaging of Earth.

P. Geissler, W. R. Thompson, R. Greenberg, J. Moersch, A. McEwen, C. Sagan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Nearly 6000 multispectral images of Earth were acquired by the Galileo spacecraft during its two flybys. The Galileo images offer a unique perspective on our home planet through the spectral capability made possible by four narrowband near-infrared filters, intended for observations of methane in Jupiter's atmosphere, which are not incorporated in any of the currently operating Earth orbital remote sensing systems. Spectral variations due to mineralogy, vegetative cover, and condensed water are effectively mapped by the visible and near-infrared multispectral imagery, showing a wide variety of biological, meteorological, and geological phenomena. Global tectonic and volcanic processes are clearly illustrated by these images, providing a useful basis for comparative planetary geology. Differences between plant species are detected through the narrowband IR filters on Galileo, allowing regional measurements of variation in the "red edge" of chlorophyll and the depth of the 1-micrometer water band, which is diagnostic of leaf moisture content. Although evidence of life is widespread in the Galileo data set, only a single image (at approximately 2 km/pixel) shows geometrization plausibly attributable to our technical civilization. Water vapor can be uniquely imaged in the Galileo 0.73-micrometer band, permitting spectral discrimination of moist and dry clouds with otherwise similar albedo. Surface snow and ice can be readily distinguished from cloud cover by narrowband imaging within the sensitivity range of Galileo's silicon CCD camera. Ice grain size variations can be mapped using the weak H2O absorption at 1 micrometer, a technique which may find important applications in the exploration of the moons of Jupiter. The Galileo images have the potential to make unique contributions to Earth science in the areas of geological, meteorological and biological remote sensing, due to the inclusion of previously untried narrowband IR filters. The vast scale and near global coverage of the Galileo data set complements the higher-resolution data from Earth orbiting systems and may provide a valuable reference point for future studies of global change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16895-16906
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of geophysical research
Issue numberE8
StatePublished - Aug 25 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology

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