A probabilistic approach to remote compositional analysis of planetary surfaces

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Abstract

Reflected light from planetary surfaces provides information, including mineral/ice compositions and grain sizes, by study of albedo and absorption features as a function of wavelength. However, deconvolving the compositional signal in spectra is complicated by the nonuniqueness of the inverse problem. Trade-offs between mineral abundances and grain sizes in setting reflectance, instrument noise, and systematic errors in the forward model are potential sources of uncertainty, which are often unquantified. Here we adopt a Bayesian implementation of the Hapke model to determine sets of acceptable-fit mineral assemblages, as opposed to single best fit solutions. We quantify errors and uncertainties in mineral abundances and grain sizes that arise from instrument noise, compositional end members, optical constants, and systematic forward model errors for two suites of ternary mixtures (olivine-enstatite-anorthite and olivine-nontronite-basaltic glass) in a series of six experiments in the visible-shortwave infrared (VSWIR) wavelength range. We show that grain sizes are generally poorly constrained from VSWIR spectroscopy. Abundance and grain size trade-offs lead to typical abundance errors of ≤1 wt % (occasionally up to ~5 wt %), while ~3% noise in the data increases errors by up to ~2 wt %. Systematic errors further increase inaccuracies by a factor of 4. Finally, phases with low spectral contrast or inaccurate optical constants can further increase errors. Overall, typical errors in abundance are <10%, but sometimes significantly increase for specific mixtures, prone to abundance/grain-size trade-offs that lead to high unmixing uncertainties. These results highlight the need for probabilistic approaches to remote determination of planetary surface composition.

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Lapotre, M. G. A., Ehlmann, B. L., & Minson, S. E. (2017). A probabilistic approach to remote compositional analysis of planetary surfaces. Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 122(5), 983–1009. https://doi.org/10.1002/2016JE005248

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