The Spectropolarimeter for Planetary Exploration: SPEX


SPEX (Spectropolarimeter for Planetary EXploration) is an innovative, compact remotesensing instrument for measuring and characterizing aerosols in the atmosphere. The shoebox size instrument is capable of accurate full linear spectropolarimetry without moving parts or liquid crystals. High precision polarimetry is performed through encoding the degree and angle of linear polarization of the incoming light in a sinusoidal modulation of the spectrum. Measuring this intensity spectrum thus provides the spectral dependence of the degree and angle of linear polarization. Polarimetry has proven to be an excellent tool to study microphysical properties of atmospheric particles. Such information is essential to better understand the weather and climate of a planet. Although SPEX can be used to study any planetary atmosphere, including the Earth’s, the current design of SPEX is tailored to study Martian dust and clouds from an orbiting platform. SPEX’ 9 entrance pupils can simultaneously measure intensity spectra from 0.4 to 0.8 microns, in different directions along the flight direction (including two limb viewing directions). This way, the scattering phase functions of dust and cloud particles within a ground pixel are sampled while flying over it. SPEX can provide synergy with instruments on rovers and landers, as it provides an overview of spatial and temporal variations of the Martian atmosphere.