Martian mineral spectral characteristics revised

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  • Published: Jul 11, 2014
  • Author: Steve Down
  • Channels: Infrared Spectroscopy / UV/Vis Spectroscopy
thumbnail image: Martian mineral spectral characteristics revised

The hyperspectral data gathered from the surface of Mars by instruments on orbiting satellites has been refined to incorporate the known diversity of minerals, which will researchers to uncover the processes behind crust formation and its subsequent alteration by water, impacts and the Martian atmosphere.

Although there is understandably a lot of attention directed towards the Curiosity Rover on the surface of Mars, scientific instruments are also orbiting the planet taking measurements of the surface. The Mars Express launched by the European Space Agency carries a suite of instruments for analysing the Martian atmosphere and surface, including the Visible and Infrared Mineralogical Mapping Spectrometer, known as OMEGA. In addition, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter carries the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) which also measures features in the visible and infrared range.

These two instruments have revealed a broad range of minerals on the planet and the spectral features that have been generated have just been fine tuned using the spectra of 30 minerals gathered by CRISM. The original spectra were based on expectations of surface compositions derived from OMEGA data but the modified values reflect the spectral observations from the surface, giving a more accurate set of data.

Described in Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, the improvements include threshold values for the mineralogical features and a set of "browse products" which are based on red-green-blue colour composites which help data analysts to see which particular mineral are present at a particular site.

Apart from allowing more accurate characterisation of the Martian surface and subsurface, the new data will help in the selection of future landing sites where the mineralogy and history of the Mars can be pursued.

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