The Application of Fourier Transform Spectroscopy to the Remote Identification of Solids in the Solar System

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The techniques of Fourier transform spectroscopy combined with large aperture telescopes and advances in detector technology now permit infrared (λ > 1 μ) observations of the surfaces of small solar system objects such as asteroids and satellites. The results demonstrate that this activity can produce important new compositional information related to the origin and evolution of the solar system. The detection of water ice in Saturn's rings and on some of the satellites of Jupiter and Saturn confirm expectations that ices are important mineralogical components in the chemistry of the outer solar system. More recent studies of the mineralogical composition of the surfaces of asteroids provide a new observational link to the origin of meteorites and the early thermal history of the solar system. These results have been dependent upon supporting laboratory studies of the spectral behavior of ices and minerals to define the potential, and limitations, of the method. Since many of the astronomical observations have been exploratory in nature, prospects are good that continued refinement of the techniques will lead to additional insights.

Keywords: Fourier transform spectroscopy; Infrared astronomy; Planetary surfaces

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona 85721

Publication date: September 1, 1977

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