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Near-infrared spectra of the Martian surface: Reading between the linesModerate-resolution near-infrared (NIR) spectra of Mars have been widely used in studies of the Martian surface because many candidate surface materials have distinctive absorption features at these wavelengths. Recent advances in NIR detector technology and instrumentation have also encouraged studies in this spectral region. The use of moderate spectral resolution has often been justified for NIR surface observations because the spectral features produced by most surface materials are relatively broad, and easily discriminated at this resolution. In spite of this, NIR spectra of Mars are usually very difficult to interpret quantitatively. One problem is that NIR surface absorption features are often only a few percent deep, requiring observations with great signal-to-noise ratios. A more significant problem is that gases in the Martian atmosphere contribute numerous absorption features at these wavelengths. Ground-based observers must also contend with variable absorption by several gases in the Earth's atmosphere (H2O, CO2, O3, N2O, CH4, O2). The strong CO2 bands near 1.4, 1.6, 2.0, 2.7, 4.3, and 4.8 micrometers largely preclude the analysis of surface spectral features at these wavelengths. Martian atmospheric water vapor also contributes significant absorption near 1.33, 1.88, and 2.7 micrometers, but water vapor in the Earth's atmosphere poses a much larger problem to ground-based studies of these spectral regions. The third most important NIR absorber in the Martian atmosphere is CO. This gas absorbs most strongly in the relatively-transparent spectral windows near 4.6 and 2.3 micrometers. It also produces 1-10 percent absorption in the solar spectrum at these NIR wavelengths. This solar CO absorption cannot be adequately removed by dividing the Martian spectrum by that of a star, as is commonly done to calibrate ground-based spectroscopic observations, because most stars do not have identical amounts of CO absorption in their spectra. Here, we describe tow effective methods for eliminating contamination of Martian surface spectra by absorption in the solar, terrestrial, and Martian atmospheres. Both methods involve the use of very-high-resolution spectra that completely resolve the narrow atmospheric absorption lines.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Legacy CDMS
Document Type
Conference Paper
Crisp, D.
(Jet Propulsion Lab., California Inst. of Tech. Pasadena, CA, United States)
Bell, J. F., III
(NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA., United States)
Date Acquired
September 6, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 1993
Publication Information
Publication: Lunar and Planetary Inst., Twenty-fourth Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. Part 1: A-F
Subject Category
Lunar And Planetary Exploration
Accession Number
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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