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Prospecting from Space Using ASTER
This page contains archived content and is no longer being updated. At the time of publication, it represented the best available science. However, more recent observations and studies may have rendered some content obsolete.
These images of the Saline Valley area, California, were acquired March
30, 2000, by the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer
(ASTER). ASTER is the highest resolution instrument aboard NASA's Terra
satellite. The images cover a full ASTER scene (60 by 60 km). Each image displays
data from a different spectral region, and illustrates the information gained by
looking at the Earths surface in different wavelengths of light. The top image displays visible and near infrared
bands 3 (.81µm), 2 (.56µm), and 1 (.66µm) in red, green, and blue (RGB). Vegetation appears red,
snow and dry salt lakes are white, and exposed rocks are brown, gray,
yellow, and blue. Rock colors mainly reflect the presence of iron
minerals, and variations in albedo. The middle image displays short
wavelength infrared bands 4 (1.65µm), 6 (2.205µm), and 8 (2.33µm) as RGB. In this wavelength region,
clay, carbonate, and sulfate minerals have unique absorption
features, resulting in distinct colors in the image. For example,
limestones are yellow-green, and purple areas are kaolinite-rich (kaolinite is a clay mineral). The
bottom image displays thermal infrared bands 13 (10.6µm), 12 (9.1µm) and 10 (8.3µm) as RGB.
In these wavelengths, variations in quartz content are more
or less red; carbonate rocks are green, and mafic volcanic rocks are
purple (mafic rocks have high proportions of elements like magnesium and iron). ASTERs ability to
identify different types of rock and soil from space using thermal infrared wavelengths of light
is one of its unique capabilities.
Image courtesy NASA, GSFC, MITI, ERSDAC, JAROS, and the U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team.
These images of the Saline Valley area, California, were acquired March 30, 2000, by the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER).