Sea Surface Characteristic Monitoring Using A Robotic Telescope

(supervisor: Tony Cook)

Nature of project: experimental, software

Available to full-time physicists or joint students.

Project description and methodology

The purpose of this project is to demonstrate using a remote operated telescope to do temporal (time lapse) monitoring of the general state of the sea around Aberystwyth. Think of it as constructing a map and projecting views of the surface onto the map projection of the mean sea surface.

Using a combination of approximate telescope pointing angles, and landmarks of known position, it should be possible to least squares adjust the telescope pointing angle to a higher degree of accuracy for the map projection work.

In particular you may be able to study sediments, surface roughness, objects just below te water, and sunglint effects.

A successful project will develop beyond the above in one/some of the following directions:
1) Take images from video captured, using the finder scope, and the telescope, and map project these onto a model of the mean sea level for that time of the day. You will need to use landmarks of known locations, just inside the image frames (telescope or finder scope camera), to help determine the camera orientation. Some basic photogrammetric techniques will be used for this, akin to what are used when planetary scientists map project spacecraft images onto a map projection.

2) Investigate (using time lapse imaging) slightly more reflective river sediment deposits flowing into the darker sea.

3) Investigate sunglint effects to see if you can determine the slope angles and azimuths of the waves that are causing these, and hence the overall scatter in slope angles.

4) Investigate stacking images and using minimum and maximum pixel brightness values to: (a) see slightly beneath the sea surface, (b) to identify regions of where surf occurs more frequently e.g. underwater sand bars.

When considering where to take your project, please bear in mind the time available. It is preferable to do fewer things well than to try many and not get conclusive results on any of them. However, sometimes it is useful to have a couple of strands of investigation in parallel to work on in case delays occur.

This project is only available as a Y3 project.

Initial literature for students:

  1. Cook, A.C., Vickers, M., Stevens-Bulmer, G. (2009) Applications of Statistical Imaging of the Sea using a Robotic Telescope, Proceedings of RSPSoc 2009 Annual Conference, 8-11th September 2009, Leicester, UK . pp. 653-660 .
  2. Lerczak , J. A. , and Hobbs, R.C.. 1998. Calculating sighting distances from angular readings during shipboard, aerial, and shore - based marine mammal surveys , Marine Mammal Science, 14 (3):590 - 599 .
  3. Gailey, G., and Ortega-Oritz, J., 2000. PYTHAGORAS Theodolite Cetacean Tracking, Marine Mammal Research Program,Texas A&M University at Galveston .http://www.cetaecoresearch.com/Software/Pythagoras/Pythagoras_manual.pdf
  4. Cook, A. (2008) Local Remote Sensing Opportunities with a Lunar Robotic Telescope, EGU2008 Conference, Geophysical Research Absttracts, Vol. 10, EGU2008-A-11530, 2008 SRef-ID: 1607-7962/gra/EGU2008-A-11530

Novelty, degree of difficulty and amount of assistance required

This is a challenging project and requires excellent programming skills (especially if taken through to an extended project), some knowledge of computer vision and hardware control of a robotic device. The concept behind this project is relatively new.

Project milestones and deliverables (including timescale)

milestoneto be completed by
Telescope trainingChristmas
Learn to navigate with images and map project images onto sea surfaceend of February
Experiment with stacking images to pull out maximum, minimum brightnesses and other temporal image parametersmid-March
Investigate monitoring of river sediment in sea and sun glint effectsEaster

Students taking this project will have to submit a full risk assessment form