NFYK15010U  Exploration from Space

Volume 2015/2016

M.Sc. Physics


The purpose of the course is to provide knowledge of satellite, spacecraft, and airborne based methods to explore conditions at the surface and the subsurface of Earth, Mars and other solar system objects, and to interpret the observations in relation to the physical or geological context. The course will focus on specific themes that are related to ongoing research at the Niels Bohr Institute, and the techniques may involve image analysis, analysis of gravity coefficients from GRACE using spherical harmonics functions, analysis of laser and radar altimetry, SAR and InSAR, optical measurements, depth-sounding radar from air and satellite, spectral observations, and others.

The course will provide knowledge of basic geodetic mapping coordinate systems. It will further provide knowledge of instruments, satellite observations, geodetic mapping, and methods to obtain in-situ data.

The course will be structured around three themes, which may vary and depend on current research activities. Within each theme, the students work on a computer-based exercise related to satellite, surface spacecraft, or airborne observations, and hand in a written report based on the exercise. The report includes a discussion of the relevant physical interpretation. Examples of themes: observations of gravity, sea level changes, ice sheet surface elevation changes, movements of ice streams, migration of dunes on Mars, ice thickness of Martian glaciers, visible, infrared and near infrared spectral analysis of geologic terrain on Mars.

Learning Outcome

After completing this course, the student will be able to:

  • Describe instruments, and airborne satellite and space based observations for a range of current missions.
  • Describe the value and limitations of the data, and describe how these data relate to in-situ observations.
  • Use basic geodetic mapping coordinate systems.
  • Identify relevant methods using data from satellite, spaceborne or airborne instrument for a given study of Earth, the planets or other solar system objects.
  • Use programming tools from Matlab (or an equivalent language) to process and analyze observations from space.
  • Present and discuss the results of the numerical model in a written report.


This course will present a range of air and space based investigations of the Earth, the terrestrial planets or other solar system objects. Emphasis will be placed upon how these data can be identified, processed and interpreted to inform a particular geophysical or physical study.

The course will provide knowledge of basic geodetic mapping coordinate systems. It will further provide knowledge of instruments, satellite observations, and methods to obtain in-situ data.

Through this course, the students will see how space based observations can be processed and calibrated against in-situ data to inform on particular features of the Earth, planets and other solar system objects. They will further see how these observations can be interpreted in relation to a particular physical or geophysical context. They will further learn how numerical processing can be used to investigate observations. The student will be competent in using and extrapolation knowledge from the observations. Development of numerical processing tools of observations has application in a wide range of fields within physics.

See the course page in Absalon.

BSc in physics, astronomy, geosciences or equivalent
Lectures, exercises, project work.
Restricted elective for specialisations "Geophysics", "Astrophysics" and "Physics". The course is offered every second year.
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Continuous assessment
Continuous assessment. 3 larger computer exercises and accompanying reports. All three reports count with equal weight.
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
more internal examiners

Same as ordinary exam; 3 reports should be submitted.

Criteria for exam assesment

The highest grade, 12, is achieved if all skills are demonstrated with none or only few errors.

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 32
  • Exercises
  • 16
  • Project work
  • 90
  • Preparation
  • 68
  • Total
  • 206