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CASSINI VIMS (Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer)

The Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) is essentially a color camera mounted on the Cassini spacecraft bound for Saturn. It has a pair of imaging grating spectrometers designed to measure reflected and emitted radiation from atmospheres, rings, and surfaces over wavelengths from 0.35 to 5.1 micrometers to determine their compositions, temperatures, and structures.

When the human eye looks at an object, the cones in the retina are able to discern the amount of light hitting them at 3 different wavelengths, which are interpreted as colors. Light with a wavelength of around 420 nm (nanometers, or billionths of a meter) looks blue, light at 534 nm looks yellow and 564 nm looks red. Colors other than red, yellow, and blue are the result of the eye receiving different amounts of light at each wavelength at the same time.

Cassini VIMS takes pictures in 352 different colors at the same time, with wavelengths between 300 and 5100 nm. Thus the color range of VIMS’s vision is greater than that of the human eye (300-5100 nm, as opposed to 380-620 nm), and far more accurate in determining the wavelength of the light that strikes it.


Dr. Robert H. Brown
University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Lab


University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA Ames Research Center, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, CalTech, Cornell University, US Geological Survey Denver, University of Arizona Tucson, SOEST University of Hawaii

Institut d’Astrophysique Spatiale, CNRS, DESPA / Observatoire de Meudon, Observatoire de Paris Meudon

Instituto di Astrophysica Spaziale, CNR/IRSI, Instituto di Fisica, Agenzia Spatiale Italiana

Institut fur Planetenerkundung DLR

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