Calibration of imaging parameters for space-borne airglow photography using city light positions

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A new method for calibrating imaging parameters of photographs taken from the International Space Station (ISS) is presented in this report. Airglow in the mesosphere and the F-region ionosphere was captured on the limb of the Earth with a digital single-lens reflex camera from the ISS by astronauts. To utilize the photographs as scientific data, imaging parameters, such as the angle of view, exact position, and orientation of the camera, should be determined because they are not measured at the time of imaging. A new calibration method using city light positions shown in the photographs was developed to determine these imaging parameters with high accuracy suitable for airglow study. Applying the pinhole camera model, the apparent city light positions on the photograph are matched with the actual city light locations on Earth, which are derived from the global nighttime stable light map data obtained by the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program satellite. The correct imaging parameters are determined in an iterative process by matching the apparent positions on the image with the actual city light locations. We applied this calibration method to photographs taken on August 26, 2014, and confirmed that the result is correct. The precision of the calibration was evaluated by comparing the results from six different photographs with the same imaging parameters. The precisions in determining the camera position and orientation are estimated to be ±2.2 km and ±0.08°, respectively. The 0.08° difference in the orientation yields a 2.9-km difference at a tangential point of 90 km in altitude. The airglow structures in the photographs were mapped to geographical points using the calibrated imaging parameters and compared with a simultaneous observation by the Visible and near-Infrared Spectral Imager of the Ionosphere, Mesosphere, Upper Atmosphere, and Plasmasphere mapping mission installed on the ISS. The comparison shows good agreements and supports the validity of the calibration. This calibration technique makes it possible to utilize photographs taken on low-Earth-orbit satellites in the nighttime as a reference for the airglow and aurora structures.


  • Earth, Planets and Space

    Earth, Planets and Space (68), 2016-09-15

    Springer Nature


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