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remote sensing

he technology of acquiring data and information about an object or phenomena by a device that is not in physical contact with it. In other words, remote sensing refers to gathering information about the Earth and its environment from a distance, a critical capability of the Earth Observing System.

For example, spacecraft in low-Earth orbit pass through the outer thermosphere, enabling direct sampling of chemical species there. These samples have been used extensively to develop an understanding of thermospheric properties. Explorer-17, launched in 1963, was the first satellite to return quantitative measurements of gaseous stratification in the thermosphere. However, the mesosphere and lower layers cannot be probed directly in this way--global observations from space require remote sensing from a spacecraft at an altitude well above the mesopause. The formidable technological challenges of atmospheric remote sensing, many of which are now being overcome, have delayed detailed study of the stratosphere and mesosphere by comparison with thermospheric research advances.

Some remote-sensing systems encountered in everyday life include the human eye and brain, and photographic and video cameras. Source: NASA (http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Glossary)