Exploration of Planetary Hyperspectral Images with Unsupervised Spectral Unmixing: A Case Study of Planet Mars
We propose to replace traditional spectral index methods by unsupervised spectral unmixing methods for the exploration of large datasets of planetary hyperspectral images. The main goal of this article is to test the ability of these analysis techniques to automatically extract the spectral signatures of the species present on the surface and to map their abundances accurately and with an acceptable processing time. We consider observations of the surface of Mars acquired by the imaging
... eter OMEGA aboard MEX as a case study. The moderate spatial resolution (≈300 m/pixel at best) of this instrument implies the systematic existence of geographical mixtures possibly conjugated with non-linear (e.g., intimate) mixtures. We examine the sensitivity of a series of state-of-the-art methods of unmixing to the intrinsic spectral variability of the species in the image and to intimate assemblages of compounds. This study is made possible thanks to the use of well-controlled synthetic data and a real OMEGA image, for which the present icy species (water and carbon dioxide ices) and their characteristic spectra are widely known by the planetary community. Furthermore, reference maps of component abundances are built by the inversion of a more realistic physical model (simulating the propagation of solar light through the atmosphere and reflected back to the sensor) in order to validate the methods with the real image by comparison with the maps extracted by unmixing. The results produced by the processing pipeline of the eigenvalue likelihood maximization (ELM), vertex component analysis (VCA) and non-negativity condition least squares error estimators (NNLS) are the most robust to non-linear effects, highly-mixed pixels and different types of mixtures. Despite this fact, the produced results are not always the best because the VCA method assumes the existence of pure pixels in the image, that is pixels completely occupied by a single species. However, this pipeline is very fast and provides endmember spectra that are always interpretable. Finally, it produces more accurate distribution maps than the spectral index methods. More generally, the potential benefits of unsupervised spectral unmixing methods in planetary exploration is emphasized.