Spectral unmixing for mineral identification in pancam images of soils in Gusev crater, Mars

M. Parente, J. L. Bishop, J. F. Bell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The objective of this work is to propose an automated unmixing technique for the analysis of 11-channel Mars Exploration Rover Panoramic Camera (MER/Pancam) spectra. Our approach is to provide a screening tool for identifying unique/distinct reflectance spectra. We demonstrate the utility of this unmixing technique in a study of the mineralogy of the bright salty soils exposed by the rover wheels in images of Gusev crater regions known as Paso Robles (Sols 400,426), Arad (Sol 721), and Tyrone (Sol 790). The unmixing algorithm is based on a novel derivation of the Nonnegative Matrix Factorization technique and includes added features that preclude the adverse effects of low abundance materials that would otherwise skew the unmixing. In order to create a full 11-channel spectrum out of the left and right eye stereo pairs, we also developed a new registration procedure that includes rectification and disparity calculation of the images. We identified two classes of endmember spectra for the bright soils imaged on Sols 426 and 790. One of these endmember classes is also observed for soils imaged on Sols 400 and 721 and has a unique spectral shape that is distinct from most iron oxide, sulfate and silicate spectra and differs from typical martian surface spectra. Instead, its unique spectral character resembles the spectral shape of the ferric sulfate minerals fibroferrite (Fe3+(SO4)(OH) · 5H2O) and ferricopiapite ((Fe3 +,Al,Mg) Fe53 + (SO4)6 (OH)2 · 20 H2 O) and the phosphate mineral ferristrunzite ((Mn2 +, Fe23 +) 2 (PO4)2 (OH)2 · 6 H2 O). The other endmember class is less consistent with specific minerals and is likely a mixture of altered volcanic material and some bright salts. Further analyses of data from Sols 400 and 790 using an anomaly detection algorithm as a tool for detecting low abundance materials additionally suggests the identification of the sulfate mineral paracoquimbite (Fe2(SO4)3 · 9H2O). This spectral study of Pancam images of the bright S- and P-enriched soils of Gusev crater identifies specific ferric sulfate and ferric phosphate minerals that are consistent with the unique spectral properties observed here in the 0.4-1 μm range.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)421-436
Number of pages16
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Data reduction techniques
  • Image processing
  • Mars
  • Mineralogy
  • Spectroscopy
  • Surface

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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