Imaging Spectroscopy: Opening the Black Box
Imaging spectrometers in the visible/shortwave infrared range capture the majority of solar-reflected light and add a spectral and thus compositional dimension to traditional spatial image data used in computer vision. These instruments are becoming more common in laboratory and field environments, where they enable rapid acquisition of quantitative maps of physical and chemical properties at high spatial resolution. They also have a long history of deployments on aircraft and spacecraft for remote mapping. They can be used to characterize terrestrial and coastal aquatic ecosystems, geology, and atmospheric properties, and are also critical tools for exploring other planetary bodies.
Recognizing this potential, space agencies including NASA, ESA, and others have slated imaging spectrometers for Earth-orbiting missions. EMIT is a JPL imaging spectrometer that the Ehlmann group is involved with that will go on the international space station to map the composition of Earth’s dust source regions. Meanwhile, Ehlmann is PI of the Lunar Trailblazer mission that would send an imaging spectrometer to map water, ice, and rocks on the Moon, and future missions like Europa/MISE will revolutionize our understanding of Europa’s surface composition. Vast catalogues of planetary imaging spectrometer data from CRISM and OMEGA at Mars, Dawn at Ceres and Vesta, and others have yet to be fully exploited.
The Schmidt Academy for Software Engineering is working with the Ehlmann group to mature open source tools to analyze imaging spectroscopy datasets. Although code exists as a prototype, it is not yet sufficiently stable, fast or user-friendly for widespread adoption by students and scientists. In collaboration, the Schmidt Academy is turning this software into a distributable, flexible tool for seamless adoption by the data users at Caltech and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and democratizing the tools of imaging spectroscopy so that the powerful datasets are fully and easily accessible to a larger community.