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The Mini-Thermal Emission Spectrometer, or Mini-TES, is an instrument that sees infrared radiation emitted by objects. The instrument is located at the bottom of the rover's mast, and scanning mirrors reflect light down to it. It sees the terrain around the rover from the same vantage point as Pancam. The Mini-TES is similar to Mars Global Surveyor's Thermal Emission Spectrometer (TES) instrument. Athena's Mini-TES will determine from afar the mineral composition of martian surface features and select specific rocks and soils to investigate in detail.

Making measurements in the thermal IR has many advantages. The thermal IR has the ability to penetrate through the dust coatings common to the martian surface that can present problems for remote sensing observations. At these wavelengths, Mini-TES can recognize carbonates, silicates, organic molecules, and minerals formed in water. Thermal IR data will also help scientists assess the capacity of rocks and soils to hold heat over the wide temperature range of a martian day.

In addition to determining mineral composition of martian surface materials, Mini-TES will be pointed upward to make the first ever high-resolution temperature profiles through the martian atmosphere's boundary layer.

Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell/ASU

The colored dots in this image mosaic denote thermal data in features that make up the impact crater known as "Endurance." The data was taken by Opportunity's Mini-TES and the information has been overlaid onto a view of the crater from the rover's navigation camera. Blue denotes cooler temperatures of about 220 degrees Kelvin (-63.67 degrees Fahrenheit or -53.15 degrees Celsius), and red denotes warmer temperatures of about 280 degrees Kelvin (44.33 degrees Fahrenheit or 6.85 degrees Celsius). (released June 2, 2004)

Mini-TES Spectra
Each "pixel" of a Mini-TES image is actually a complete, detailed infrared spectrum. The graphs shown are three examples of what Mini-TES data look like when you check them out in detail. And these are just the spectra for three pixels in the image... every other pixel has just as much information in it too. We can get a good idea of what the rocks around the rover are made of with Mini-TES, which lets us decide which ones to go and investigate in more detail with our other instruments.

Here's another example of what Mini-TES can do.

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Spectra from Mars