Visualizing planetary spectroscopy through immersive on-site rendering

Lauren Gold, Alireza Bahremand, Connor Richards, Justin Hertzberg, Kyle Sese, Alexander Gonzalez, Zoe Purcell, Kathryn Powell, Robert Likamwa

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

2 Scopus citations


Remote sensing is currently the primary method of obtaining knowledge about the composition and physical properties of the surface of other planets. In a commonly used technique, visible and near-infrared (VNIR) spectrometers onboard orbiting satellites capture reflectance data at different wavelengths, which in turn gives insight about the minerals present and the overall composition of the terrain. In select locations on Mars, rovers have also conducted up close in-situ investigation of the same terrains examined by orbiters, allowing direct comparisons at different spatial scales. In this work, we build Planetary Visor, a virtual reality tool to visualize orbital and ground data around NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover's ongoing traverse in Gale Crater. We have built a 3D terrain along Curiosity's traverse using rover images, and within it we visualize satellite data as polyhedrons, superimposed on that terrain. This system provides perspectives of VNIR spectroscopic data from a satellite aligned with ground images from the rover, allowing the user to explore both the physical aspects of the terrain and their relation to the mineral composition. The result is a system that provides seamless rendering of datasets at vastly different scales. We conduct a user study with subject matter experts to evaluate the success and potential of our tool. The results indicate that Visor assists with geometric understanding of spectral data, improved geological context, a better sense of scale while navigating terrain, and new insights into spectral data. The result is not only an immersive environment in a scientifically interesting area on Mars, but a robust tool for analysis and visualization of data that can yield improved scientific discovery. This technology is relevant to the ongoing operations of the Curiosity rover and will directly be able to represent the data collected in the upcoming Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings - 2021 IEEE Conference on Virtual Reality and 3D User Interfaces, VR 2021
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9780738125565
StatePublished - Mar 2021
Event28th IEEE Conference on Virtual Reality and 3D User Interfaces, VR 2021 - Virtual, Lisboa, Portugal
Duration: Mar 27 2021Apr 3 2021

Publication series

NameProceedings - 2021 IEEE Conference on Virtual Reality and 3D User Interfaces, VR 2021


Conference28th IEEE Conference on Virtual Reality and 3D User Interfaces, VR 2021
CityVirtual, Lisboa


  • Remote Sensing
  • Spectroscopy
  • Vitrual reality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Media Technology


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