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Scientists developed a new sensor for future missions to the Moon and Mars
by Staff Writers
Moscow, Russia (SPX) Nov 30, 2017

File image of MER-B in operation.

A team of scientists from the Faculty of Physics of Lomonosov Moscow State University and their colleagues developed a compact spectral polarimeter for carrying outmineralogical investigations on the surface of astronomical bodies. The description of the device and the results of prototype testing were published in Optics Express.

Spectral imaging, that is measuring spectral characteristics for each separate point of an object, is a widely used method for studying the surface of astronomical bodies. Spectral polarimetry gives important extra information about the structure and composition of rock. Scientists use this technique to find out how the light propagation direction (polarization plane) changes when the light goes through a mineral.

"The scientific value of this work lies in the creation of a compact and light spectral polarimeter that could be easily installed on a Mars or Moon rover," - explained Sergey Potanin, a co-author of the article, candidate of physical and mathematical sciences, and associate professor of the Department of Astrophysics and Stellar Astronomy of the Faculty of Physics, MSU.

In the course of their work the scientists developed a spectral polarimeter that operates in the near infrared range. Based on its own calculations, the team created a lab prototype and tested it on two minerals (plaster and kaolinite) simulating the surfaces of the Moon and Mars. The authors of the article hope that in the future similar spectral polarimeters will be used as prospecting tools on planet rovers.

The new device is smaller than its earlier analogs. This became possible due to a new compact optical scheme that picks up two images at the same time in two perpendicular polarization planes.

"The main result of our work is development and creation of a prototype spectral polarimeter for mineralogical investigations. This device might be used during future missions to Mars or to the Moon," - added Sergey Potanin.

The device was developed in close collaboration by scientists from MSU, Russian Space Research Institute, National University of Science and Technology MISiS, and AdlOpticaGmbh (Germany).

Research paper

NASA builds its next Mars rover mission
Pasadena CA (JPL) Nov 29, 2017
In just a few years, NASA's next Mars rover mission will be flying to the Red Planet. At a glance, it looks a lot like its predecessor, the Curiosity Mars rover. But there's no doubt it's a souped-up science machine: It has seven new instruments, redesigned wheels and more autonomy. A drill will capture rock cores, while a caching system with a miniature robotic arm will seal up these samples. T ... read more

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