The Effect of Incidence Angle on Stereo DTM Quality: Simulations in Support of Europa Clipper

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Randolph L Kirk1, Elpitha Howington-Kraus1, Trent M Hare1 and Laurent Jorda2, (1)USGS Astrogeology Science Center, Flagstaff, AZ, United States, (2)Observatoire Astrophysique Marseille, Marseille, France
Many quality factors for digital topographic models (DTMs) from stereo imaging can be predicted geometrically. For example, pixel scale is related to instantaneous field of view and to range. DTM resolution can be no better than a few times this pixel scale. Even vertical precision is a known function of the pixel scale and convergence angle, providedthe image quality is high enough that automated image matching reaches its optimal precision (~0.2 pixel). The influence of incidence angle is harder to predict. Reduced quality is expected both at low incidence (where topographic shading disappears) and high incidence (where signal/noise ratio is low and shadows occur). This problem is of general interest, but especially critical for the Europa Clipper mission profile. Clipper would obtain a radar sounding profile on each Europa flyby. Stereo images collected simultaneously would be used to produce a DTM needed to distinguish off-nadir surface echos (clutter) from subsurface features. The question is, how much of this DTM strip will be useful, given that incidence angle will vary substantially?

 We are using simulations to answer this question. We produced a 210 m/post DTM of the Castalia Macula region of Europa from 6 Galileo images by photoclinometry. A low-incidence image was used to correct for albedo variations before photoclinometry. We are using the image simulation software OASIS to generate synthetic stereopairs of the region at a full range of incidence angles. These images will be realistic in terms of image resolution, noise, photometry including albedo variations (based on the low incidence image), and cast shadows. The pairs will then be analyzed with the commercial stereomapping software SOCET SET (® BAE Systems), which we have used for a wide variety of planetary mapping projects. Comparing the stereo-derived DTMs to the input (“truth”) DTM will allow us to quantify the dependence of true DTM resolution and vertical precision on illumination, and to document the qualitative ways that DTMs degrade at high and low incidence angles.

This methodology is immediately applicable to other planetary targets, and in particular can be used to address how much difference in illumination can be tolerated in stereopairs that are not (as for Clipper) acquired simultaneously.