The mid and thermal infrared (MTIR) for the Earth surface is defined between 3 and 14µm. In the outer solar system, objects are colder and their Planck response shifts towards longer wavelengths. Hence for these objects (e.g. icy moons, polar caps, comets, Europa), the thermal IR definition usually stretches out to 50µm and beyond. Spectroscopy has been a key part of this scientific exploration because of its ability to remotely determine elemental and mineralogical composition. Many key gas species such as methane, ammonia, sulfur, etc. also have vibrational bands which show up in the thermal infrared spectrum above the background response.
Over the past few decades, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory has been building up a portfolio of technology to capture the MTIR for various scientific applications. Three recent sensors are briefly reviewed: The airborne Hyperspectral thermal emission spectrometer (HyTES), the ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS) and Mars Climate Sounder (MCS)/DIVINER. Each of these sensors utilize a different technology to provide a remote sensing product based on MTIR science. For example, HyTES is a push-brooming hyperspectral imager which utilizes a large format quantum well infrared photodetector (QWIP). The goal is to transition this to a new complementary barrier infrared photodetector (CBIRD) with a similar long wave cut-off and increased sensitivity. ECOSTRESS is a push-whisk Mercury Cadmium Telluride (MCT) based high speed, multi-band, imager which will eventually observe and characterize plant/vegetation functionality and stress index from the International Space Station (ISS) across the contiguous United States (CONUS). MCS/DIVINER utilizes thermopile technology to capture the thermal emission from the polar caps and shadow regions of the moon. Each sensor utilizes specific JPL technology to capture unique science.