Astrobiological considerations for the selection of the geological filters on the ExoMars PanCam instrument

Claire Rachel Cousins, Andrew Griffiths, Ian Crawford, Bryan Prosser, Michael Storrie-Lombardi, Lottie Davis, Matthew Gunn, Andrew Coates, Adrian Jones, John Ward

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    13 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    The Panoramic Camera (PanCam) instrument will provide visible-near IR multispectral imaging of the ExoMars rover's surroundings to identify regions of interest within the nearby terrain. This multispectral capability is dependant upon the 12 preselected "geological" filters that are integrated into two wide-angle cameras. First devised by the Imager for Mars Pathfinder team to detect iron oxides, this baseline filter set has remained largely unchanged for subsequent missions (Mars Exploration Rovers, Beagle 2, Phoenix) despite the advancing knowledge of the mineralogical diversity on Mars. Therefore, the geological filters for the ExoMars PanCam will be redesigned to accommodate the astrobiology focus of ExoMars, where hydrated mineral terrains (evidence of past liquid water) will be priority targets. Here, we conduct an initial investigation into new filter wavelengths for the ExoMars PanCam and present results from tests performed on Mars analog rocks. Two new filter sets were devised: one with filters spaced every 50 nm ("F1-12") and another that utilizes a novel filter selection method based upon hydrated mineral reflectance spectra ("F2-12"). These new filter sets, along with the Beagle 2 filter set (currently the baseline for the ExoMars PanCam), were tested on their ability to identify hydrated minerals and biosignatures present in Mars analog rocks. The filter sets, with varying degrees of ability, detected the spectral features of minerals jarosite, opaline silica, alunite, nontronite, and siderite present in these rock samples. None of the filter sets, however, were able to detect fossilized biomat structures and small (<2 mm) mineralogical heterogeneities present in silica sinters. Both new filter sets outperformed the Beagle 2 filters, with F2-12 detecting the most spectral features produced by hydrated minerals and providing the best discrimination between samples. Future work involving more extensive testing on Mars analog samples that exhibit a wider range of mineralogies would be the next step in carefully evaluating the new filter sets.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalAstrobiology
    Publication statusPublished - 2010

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