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April 11, 2017

It’s not a caffeinated ghost, but this EarthWord is nearly as trippy...

EarthWords is an on-going series in which we shed some light on the complicated, often difficult-to-pronounce language of science. Think of us as your terminology tour-guides, and meet us back here every week for a new word!

Image shows a hyperspectral map of deposit types
Preliminary map of selected minerals for a portion of the Nabesna area of interest, near Orange Hill and Bond Creek deposits in Alaska. The image, derived from HyMap imaging spectrometer data collected in July 2014, is draped on shaded relief.(Public domain.)


The EarthWord: Hyperspectral


  • Instead of a caffeinated ghost, hyperspectral refers to something nearly as trippy. It’s a tool that shines light on surfaces and measures the reflection across multiple bands. Not only does it measure visible light, but it also measures bands of light beyond the visible like infrared.


Use/Significance in the Earth Science Community:

  • Hyperspectral sensors measure light reflected from the earth. The spectrum of the reflected light can be interpreted to identify the composition of materials at the surface, such as minerals, man-made materials, snow, and vegetation. These materials can be identified remotely due to their unique light spectra.  In addition, these data allow large geographic areas to be mapped quickly and accurately, showing mineral resources, natural hazards, agricultural conditions and infrastructure development.


Next EarthWord: While not a Ferris wheel, this EarthWord is just as magnetic an attraction

Hungry for some science, but you don’t have time for a full-course research plate? Then check out USGS Science Snippets, our snack-sized science series that focuses on the fun, weird, and fascinating stories of USGS science.

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