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Home         Instruments           Mission          FAQ
Frequently Asked Questions

What does COAST stand for?

The Coastal and Ocean Airborne Science Testbed. The purpose is to develop a new capability to observe ocean and coastal areas to increase understanding of algal blooms, erosion, water pollution, coral reefs, and natural toxic events.

Why develop COAST?

Remote sensing of the ocean is very challenging because light in most wavelengths is absorbed by water. Little light is reflected from the ocean surface, returning only a small signal to cameras or other optical remote sensing instruments. To compound the challenge, a dirty atmosphere can obscure what little signal comes from the ocean surface. The instruments in the testbed are designed to advance the capability to remotely sense coastal and ocean phenomena at a scale that allows us to resolve the spatially complex coastal zone. Putting the instruments on an aircraft platform allows COAST to be deployed in locations and times of day of special interest to researchers.

What will COAST do that a satellite sensor can't do?

Several satellite sensors (MODIS, MERIS) are in space covering the world's oceans on a daily basis. These sensors provide very coarse resolution (like a national weather map) that doesn't give detailed information on local processes.

What instruments are part of the testbed?

There are three instruments:

  1. An imaging spectrometer that provides a map of the ocean surface and allows us to measure the extent and pattern of phenomena such as sediment plumes, kep forests, coral reefs, areas of dense phytoplankton, and harmful algal blooms;
  2. A package of microradiometers, tiny cameras that can obtain very accurate measurements of small amounts of reflected light in several specific wavelengths; and
  3. A sun photometer, which is used to remove the contamination caused by a dirty atmosphere in data obtained from the first two instruments.

How deep into the ocean can you see with these instruments?

In some wavelengths, the spectrometer and microradiometers can penetrate up to 10 meters to see subsurface phenomena. In other wavelengths, only surface phenomena can be seen.

Why are you doing your first flight of COAST over Monterey Bay?

Monterey Bay is a National Marine Sanctuary with many interesting and biologically important processes occurring close to shore. It is also within easy driving distance of Ames Research Center, where the instrument package is being assembled and tested.


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