Low earth orbit space object differentiation using long-wave infrared polarimetry

Kevin Pohl, Jonathan Black, Jonathan Pitt, Edward Colbert

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Long-Wave Infrared (LWIR) polarimetric measurements can be used to characterize space objects under certain conditions. Both visible and LWIR polarimetry have been demonstrated extensively in terrestrial applications for detection and characterization of objects of interest. Visible polarimetry has also been demonstrated for space object detection. The objective of the current research is to use a software model to determine how well an object can be detected in low Earth orbit (LEO) with LWIR polarimetry using a modest aperture, diffraction-limited telescope (70cm aperture), and whether it can be differentiated from another object of different composition. Most targets at this range and wavelength are effectively point sources with an aggregate value for their degree of linear polarization, somewhat dependent on target rotation with respect to the sensor. This approach represents a step forward in optical systems for space situational awareness in that it can be used both day and night, regardless of external target illumination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPolarization
Subtitle of host publicationMeasurement, Analysis, and Remote Sensing XIV
EditorsDavid B. Chenault, Dennis H. Goldstein
ISBN (Electronic)9781510636019
StatePublished - 2020
EventPolarization: Measurement, Analysis, and Remote Sensing XIV 2020 - None, United States
Duration: Apr 27 2020May 8 2020

Publication series

NameProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
ISSN (Print)0277-786X
ISSN (Electronic)1996-756X


ConferencePolarization: Measurement, Analysis, and Remote Sensing XIV 2020
Country/TerritoryUnited States

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Low earth orbit space object differentiation using long-wave infrared polarimetry'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this