Published: Feb. 20, 2023

Sean PetersSean Peters
Assistant Professor, Department of Physics & Space Systems Academic Group, Naval Postgraduate School
Thursday, Mar. 2 | 10:00 a.m. | AERO 111

Abstract: Traditional active radars transmit a powerful electromagnetic pulse and record the echo's delay time and power to measure target properties of interest, such as range, velocity, and reflectivity. Such observations are critical for investigating current and evolving conditions in extreme environments (i.e., polar regions and planetary missions); however, existing radar systems are resource-intensive in terms of cost, power, mass, and spectrum usage when continuously monitoring large areas of interest. I address this challenge by presenting a novel implementation of passive radar that leverages ambient radio noise sources (instead of transmitting a powerful radio signal) as a low-resource approach for echo detection, ranging, and imaging. Starting from theory, simulation, and lab-bench testing, I first present the results of our passive radar sounding demonstration using the Sun to measure ice sheet thickness at Store Glacier, Greenland. I then project the passive radar’s performance and ability to provide valuable glaciological observations (such as melt rates, bed reflectivity changes, and englacial water storage) across Greenland and Antarctica. 

In the second part of my presentation, I then extend this technique to enable passive synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imaging using radio-astronomical noise sources (e.g., the Sun and Jupiter’s radio emissions). I conclude by highlighting applications of this technique to planetary remote sensing, such as (1) using Jupiter’s HF radio emissions alongside an active VHF radar to characterize and correct for Europa’s ionospheric dispersion during a flyby mission and (2) using the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) Shallow Radar (SHARAD) to analyze solar radio burst candidates for Martian passive sounding.

Bio: Dr. Sean Peters is an assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Space Systems Academic Group at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA. His research focuses on developing passive radar systems and signal processing techniques that use ambient radio emissions as signals of opportunity for Earth and planetary radar remote sensing. Before joining NPS, he worked as a radar systems engineer in the Airborne Radar Systems and Techniques group at MIT Lincoln Laboratory (2020-2021) to develop and test active, bistatic, and passive radars for moving target indication, imaging, and RF convergence. Sean completed his B.Sc. degree (cum laude) in electrical engineering from Rice University, Houston, TX, USA, in 2015, and both the M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA, in 2017 and 2020, respectively. As a part of the Stanford Radio Glaciology Research Group and Radar Systems Development Team, he performed ice-penetrating radar experiments for three fieldwork campaigns on Store Glacier, Greenland. He has received the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, Stanford's Diversifying Academia Recruiting Excellence Doctoral Fellowship, and the IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Student Prize Paper Award (2019) and Symposium Prize Paper Award (2021) for his work on developing radar sounding techniques for terrestrial and planetary glaciology.


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