A number of deep space missions have imaged plumes at Io, Enceladus, and other smaller bodies. These phenomena provide valuable information regarding these bodies. To date, this imagery has been captured fortuitously. The ability to utilize onboard processing to conduct campaigns capturing large numbers of images and to detect when a plume event is occurring would open up new mission paradigms. Extended temporal campaigns could provide comprehensive detail on these events’ frequency and character.

This software enables detection of plumes and obtrusions from irregularly shaped bodies. It finds convex hull from edge detection. It is very computationally efficient, and works with irregularly shaped bodies.

Onboard plume detection will enable much more efficient monitoring of outbursts and other dynamic phenomena. These techniques can enable a new class of missions to conduct long-term continuous monitoring of moons, planets, and comets.

This work was done by David R. Thompson, Steve A. Chien, Daniel Q. Tran, and Rebecca Castano of Caltech; and Ronald Greeley and Melissa Bunte of Arizona State University for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NPO-48432

This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).
Convex Hull-Based Plume and Anomaly Detection

(reference NPO-48432) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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This article first appeared in the February, 2014 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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