An airborne spectroradiometer system has been developed to take 500 channel ground target measurements simultaneously in the spectral region between 400 and 1100 nm. Survey flights with the instrument over an exposed hydrothermal alteration zone in Goldfield, Nevada provide the high-spectral resolution and spatially correlated data necessary to establish a computerized technique for spectral discrimination of limonitic zones that could indicate mineralization. The data generated by the airborne system are used, in particular, to determine the spectral properties of alteration materials as they appear in integrated measurements over extended field areas, to determine which spectral properties are unique under field conditions and will remain unique in the low-spectral resolution Landsat data, and to determine accurately the nature and magnitude of the relative spectral differences among geologic targets under the broadband configuration.Field measurements from the aircraft are spatially integrated over contiguous 18 m square fields-of-view along traverses flown to cover both background and altered rock assemblages. A small spectral signal unique to zones enriched in ferric iron minerals is recoverable in the aircraft data. Based on a differential spectral discriminant, a computer-compatible method has been devised to extract the ferric iron signal from atmospheric and background terrain and geologically induced variations in Landsat data.The discrimination technique, adapted to satellite spectral data, was applied to the Goldfield region, including the area of known alteration and metallic mineralization. Field reconnaissance and comparison with published maps for this region has affirmed that limonitic alteration is reliably delineated by the computer analysis technique.Assessment of current satellite instrumentation based on the aircraft data analysis indicates that inclusion of more appropriate band-pass regions in future sensors could increase spectral contrast among geologic targets by 100 percent. Reducing the field-of-view can also increase spectral contrast, and can help reduce spectral ambiguities among extended targets.

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