“Mars has little to no ozone in the atmosphere and this means that the high Ultra Violet radiation can cause colours to fade when exposed to sunlight. The stained-glass idea comes from observing the many stained-glass windows in churches, many of which date back to medieval times. These have been exposed to sunlight for centuries and show little to no colour degradation.
Scientists want the returned images to be colour corrected (as if they were being viewed by a human) to help them in identifying potential science targets for further investigation”, added Professor Barnes.
The Aberystwyth team will be responsible for processing the images taken by PanCam using a variety of computer vision techniques and algorithms developed at Aberystwyth.
A third member of the Aberystwyth team, Dr Laurence Tyler, will also be based at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratories during the trial.
The ExoMars mission is led by the European Space Agency (ESA) and Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos). The SAFER field trial is performed by an industrial team in the frame of a Research and Development contract of ESA’s Directorate of Technical and Quality Management.
Funding for the Aberystwyth University work has been provided by the UK Space Agency.
The field trial SAFER – Sample Filed Acquisition Experiment with a Rover in Paranal, Atacama Desert, Chile – runs from Monday 7 until Sunday 13 October.
What is it about the properties of stained-glass that make the colours so stable and resistant to UV radiation?
"The colour centres are formed as a nano-particle suspension within the glass substrate, and this substrate acts as an efficient UV blocker, thus preventing any chemical reactions from occurring that will change the colour properties."
What role does the calibration target play in the working of the camera, will it be used just once at the start of the mission or is it needed to regularly calibrate the camera?
"The calibration target will be imaged throughout the mission. Essentially every time we want to image a science target to obtain multispectral data, then we will image the calibration target at the same time using the same multispectral filters (or as close as we can get to the same time). What is important is obtaining calibration target images under the same illumination conditions as those being experienced by the science target (e.g. rocks etc.). Using laboratory (pre-flight) reflectance data of the calibration target, we can compare these data to the reflectance data obtained on Mars.This allows us to perform a radiometric and colourimetric correction of the captured PanCam images so that science target reflectance spectra and natural colour image products can be generated."
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The latest information about the field trial is available in a blog - http://safertrial.wordpress.com