High spectral resolution UV to near-IR observations of Mars using HST/STIS

J. F. Bell, T. M. Ansty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


We acquired high spectral and spatial resolution hyperspectral imaging spectrometer observations of Mars from near-UV to near-IR wavelengths (∼300 to 1020 nm) using the STIS instrument on the Hubble Space Telescope during the 1999, 2001, and 2003 oppositions. The data sets have been calibrated to radiance factor (I / F) and map-projected for comparison to each other and to other Mars remote sensing measurements. We searched for and (where detected) mapped a variety of iron-bearing mineral signatures within the data. The strong and smooth increase in I / F from the near-UV to the visible that gives Mars its distinctive reddish color indicates that poorly crystalline ferric oxides dominate the spectral properties of the high albedo regions (as well as many intermediate and low albedo regions), a result consistent with previous remote sensing studies of Mars at these wavelengths. In the near-IR, low albedo regions with a negative spectral slope and/or a distinctive ∼900 nm absorption feature are consistent with, but not unique indicators of, the presence of high-Ca pyroxene or possibly olivine. Mixed ferric-ferrous minerals could also be responsible for the ∼900 nm feature, especially in higher albedo regions with a stronger visible spectral slope. We searched for the presence of several known diagnostic absorption features from the hydrated ferric sulfate mineral jarosite, but did not find any unique evidence for its occurrence at the spatial scale of our observations. We identified a UV contrast reversal in some dark region spectra: at wavelengths shorter than about 340 nm these regions are actually brighter than classical bright regions. This contrast reversal may be indicative of extremely "clean" low albedo surfaces having very little ferric dust contamination. Ratios between the same regions observed during the planet-encircling dust storm of 2001 and during much clearer atmospheric conditions in 2003 provide a good direct estimate of the UV to visible spectral characteristics of airborne dust aerosols. These HST observations can help support the calibration of current and future Mars orbital UV to near-IR spectrometers, and they also provide a dramatic demonstration that even at the highest spatial resolution possible to achieve from the Earth, spectral variations on Mars at these wavelengths are subtle at best.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)581-602
Number of pages22
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 15 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Hubble Space Telescope observations
  • Mars
  • Spectroscopy
  • Ultraviolet observations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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