This image shows a test rig that Eric is using to examine the feasibility of LCD contrast enhancement of images. Such a system might be useful for future spacecraft which often must acquire scientific photos under challenging lighting conditions.
by Eric Shear
Several months ago, I agreed to take on a hands-on project for my masters’ thesis. I had been doing planetary mission design and it seemed like a nice change to do something experimental that might end up in future spacecraft cameras.
I picked up from where a former summer undergraduate had left off. She, with John's help, had built and tested an imager apparatus with a liquid crystal display (LCD) in front of a digital camera. The whole assembly had additional optics to sharpen the image and was bolted on a black aluminum bread-board (see the image above).
The goal was to make a sky imager that could selectively block out the sun in order to increase contrast and dynamic range in the image, allowing otherwise hard to see details to be easily picked out. An obvious application would be on Mars, where there are high altitude cirrus clouds that would be hard to see in bright daylight. The same thing could be accomplished with a physical shade, but it would be heavier and less flexible.