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Compact Spectral Polarimeter for Mineralogical Investigations

Researchers from the Faculty of Physics of Lomonosov Moscow State University and their colleagues have created a compact spectral polarimeter for performing mineralogical explorations on the surface of astronomical bodies. The description of the device and the results of prototype testing have been published in Optics Express.

Spectral imaging, that is measuring spectral features for each separate point of an object, is an extensively used technique for exploring the surface of astronomical bodies. Spectral polarimetry gives vital additional information about the composition and structure of rock. Scientists use this method to learn how the light propagation direction (polarization plane) varies when the light passes through a mineral.

"The scientific value of this work lies in the creation of a compact and light spectral polarimeter that could be easily installed on a Mars or Moon rover," - explained Sergey Potanin, a co-author of the article, candidate of physical and mathematical sciences, and associate professor of the Department of Astrophysics and Stellar Astronomy of the Faculty of Physics, MSU.

In the course of their research, the researchers created a spectral polarimeter that works in the near infrared range. Based on its own calculations, the team developed a lab prototype and tested it on two minerals (kaolinite and plaster) mimicking the surfaces of Mars and Moon. The authors of the paper anticipate that in the future similar spectral polarimeters will be employed as prospecting tools on planet rovers.

The new device is smaller than its previous analogs. This became possible because of a new compact optical scheme that captures up two images simultaneously in two perpendicular polarization planes.

"The main result of our work is development and creation of a prototype spectral polarimeter for mineralogical investigations. This device might be used during future missions to Mars or to the Moon," - added Sergey Potanin.

The device was developed in close partnership with researchers from MSU, Russian Space Research Institute, National University of Science and Technology MISiS, and AdlOpticaGmbh (Germany).

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