The utility of multispectral remote sensing techniques for discriminating among materials is based on the differences that exist among their spectral properties. As distinct from spectral variations that occur as a consequence of target condition and environmental factors, intrinsic spectral features that appear in the form of bands and slopes in the visible and near infrared (.325 to 2.5 mu m) bidirectional reflection spectra of minerals (and, consequently, rocks) are caused by a variety of electronic and vibrational processes. These processes, such as crystal field effects, charge-transfer, color centers, transitions to the conduction band, and overtone and combination tone vibrational transitions are discussed and illustrated with reference to specific minerals.Spectral data collected from a large selection of minerals are used to generate a 'spectral signature' diagram that summarizes the optimum intrinsic information available from the spectra of particulate minerals. The diagram provides a ready reference for the interpretation of visible and near infrared features that typically appear in remotely sensed data.In the visible-near infrared region, the most commonly observed features in naturally occurring materials are due to the presence of iron in some form or other, or to the presence of water or OH groups.

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