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Thermal infrared data collected by the Thermal Emission Spectrometer (TES) and Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) instruments have significantly impacted the understanding of martian surface mineralogy. Spatial/temporal variations in igneous lithologies; the discovery of quartz, carbonates, and chlorides; and the widespread identification of amorphous, silica-enriched materials reveal a planet that has experienced a diversity of primary and secondary geo-logic processes including igneous crustal evolution, regional sedimentation, aqueous alteration, and glacial/periglacial activity.
Spectral modeling techniques have been developed for the analysis of planetary surfaces using large thermal infrared (TIR) spacecraft datasets. These techniques can be applied to three main spectral analysis problems: (1) correction for atmospheric effects for the recovery of surface emissivity; (2) isolation and separation of surface spectral endmembers for the characterization of surface mineralogy; and (3) determination of surface anisothermality for the retrieval of surface physical properties and correction for thermal emission in near-infrared spectral data. These modeling techniques have been extensively applied to martian and lunar spacecraft datasets, forming a basis for the retrieval of surface physical and compositional properties.
A Miniature Thermal Emission Spectrometer (Mini-TES), based on a Michelson interferometer and Cassegrain telescope, was carried by the Spirit rover in Gusev crater and Opportunity rover at Meridiani Planum to determine the bulk mineralogy of surface materials. Spectra from the plains of Gusev demonstrate the ubiquity of olivine-rich basaltic rocks, with additional examples lofted into the adjacent Columbia Hills by meteoroid impacts. Hundreds of rocks observed with mini-TES in the Columbia Hills display spectral characteristics of variable alteration intensity, but likely with very little water involved. Rare exceptions include a tephra deposit cemented by Mg–Fe carbonates and nodular opaline silica rocks, likely indicative of a hot spring/geyser environment. Opportunity’s mini-TES confirmed orbital identification of crystalline hematite at Meridiani Planum and spectral characteristics indicative of a transition from a precursor goethite phase. The sedimentary bedrock that hosts the hematite has spectral features consistent with Al-rich opaline silica, Mg-, Ca-, and Fe-bearing sulfates, plagioclase feldspar, and nontronite. Rare rocks at both sites are recognizable as iron meteorites from their infrared reflective properties.
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