Astronomers from ancient times until Galileo knew almost nothing about stars and planets except that the latter moved in a regular fashion through the skies. One of the first examples of remote sensing was Galileo’s use of a primitive telescope to discover the Moon’s craters and the moons of Jupiter. In the early 20th century, Hubble learned that most stars were actually galaxies - clusters of billions of stars. But it took the space program, with its probes to and orbiters around the planets, to open up the other planetary bodies in the Solar System to a systematic examination. The wealth of knowledge this has brought, largely through the remote sensing devices carried on the spacecraft, has given astronomers today remarkable insights into the nature and history of the planets. This Section will convincingly underwrite that statement. The first page reviews the different sensors and parts of the spectrum used in these great advances.
Most of the same instruments that survey the electromagnetic
spectrum (EM) around Earth have been the principal tools for exploring our
planetary associates and beyond; searching well into outer space at stars
and other members of the Universe. Here is a list of remote sensing methods
using EM spectral measurements that have provided exceptional information
about planetary surfaces, atmospheres, and, indirectly, interiors: *
Remote sensing by imaging, as applied to Earth, goes back to the middle of the last century, when balloonists took the first photos. As applied to the rest of the solar system, we must look to the first observations (documented by sketches) made by Galileo in 1610, when he turned a telescope to the heavens and caught a glimpse of the surface complexities on our nearest neighbor, the Moon. Later, he confirmed the Copernican theories with his discoveries of moons, or orbiting satellites, around Jupiter. Since then, we have many observations of our solar system neighbors, first with telescopes and, after the opening of the Space Age, with orbiting spacecraft, flyby, probe, and lander missions. Nowhere else in the diversified and imaginative programs of NASA and other space agencies from different nations has there been such a plethora of observational and scientific triumphs as the exploration of the planets and the Cosmos beyond.
Most of the same instruments that survey the electromagnetic spectrum (EM) around Earth have been the principal tools for exploring our planetary associates and beyond; searching well into outer space at stars and other members of the Universe. Here is a list of remote sensing methods using EM spectral measurements that have provided exceptional information about planetary surfaces, atmospheres, and, indirectly, interiors: *
K, U, Th Abundances
Apollo 15, 16: Venera
X-ray Fluorescence spectrometry
Surface mineral/ chemical comp.
Apollo; Viking Landers
Spectrum of Reflected sunlight
Atmospheric Composition: H,He,CO2
Mariner; Pioneer; voyager
Nature of Surface; Composition
Earth Telescopes; Pioneer
Spectral and Spatial
Surface Features; Composition
On most missions
Spectral intensities of reflected solar radiation
Surface Chemistry; mineralogy; processes
Time delay between emitted and reflected pulses
Surface Texture; Composition
Infrared Radiometer (includes scanners)
Thermal radiant intensities
Surface and atmospheric temperatures; compos.
Apollo; Mariner; Viking; Voyager
Passive microwave emission
Atmosphere/Surface temperatures; structure
Mariner; Pioneer Venus
Surface reflection profiles
Surface Heights; roughness
Apollo 14,15,16; Viking
Reflections from swath
Topography and roughness
Magellan; Earth systems
Multifrequency Doppler Shifts
Surface Profiling and imaging; conductivity
Doppler shift single frequency
Frequency and intensity change
Atmospheric density and pressure
Flybys and Orbiters
* Adapted from Billy P. Glass, Introduction to Planetary Geology, 1982, Cambridge University, Press
This list is incomplete but is still highly representative. The Command and Service Module on the Apollo lunar missions carried a complement of other instruments including alpha-particle spectrometers, mass spectrometers, magnetometers, far UV spectrometers, scintillometers, and others designed to measure geochemical and geophysical properties. The astronauts also deployed, on the surface, instruments for specific studies. Among these were seismometers, magnetometers, gravimeters, solar wind gauges, cosmic-ray detectors, heat flow probes, and laser ranging retroreflectors. However, in retrospect, sensors that produce images, especially photographs and similar items, have provided the most direct and readily interpretible sets of data, and will continue to be a mainstay of future missions.
Before proceeding, it may be helpful to you to visit and browse a website that deals with (mostly NASA's) Solar System programs - past, present, and future. Check, too, this website that lists most of the spacecraft sent to other planets and solar system objects. Then check out one of JPL's movies. Access through the JPL Video Site, then follow the pathway Format-->Video -->Search to bring up the list that includes "Interplanetary Superhighway", July 17, 2002. To start it, once found, click on the blue RealVideo link.
Primary Author: Nicholas M. Short, Sr. email: [email protected]