The Mountain Pass rare earth mine is an open-pit mine of rare earth elements (REEs) in southeastern California near the Nevada border. REEs are vital for the electronics industry, auto manufacturing, and a wide range of other high-tech products. The mine once supplied most of the world's rare earth elements until its closure in 2002. Since then, China has taken over as the leading supplier of REEs, producing over 96% of the world's supply. In 2008, Mountain Pass was purchased by a new operator, who plans to produce 20-25% of the world's REEs by 2014. The image was acquired March 28, 2010, covers an area of 17.3 x 18.5 km, and is located at 35.5 degrees north latitude, 115.5 degrees west longitude.
With its 14 spectral bands from the visible to the thermal infrared wavelength region and its high spatial resolution of 15 to 90 meters (about 50 to 300 feet), ASTER images Earth to map and monitor the changing surface of our planet. ASTER is one of five Earth-observing instruments launched Dec. 18, 1999, on Terra. The instrument was built by Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. A joint U.S./Japan science team is responsible for validation and calibration of the instrument and data products.
The broad spectral coverage and high spectral resolution of ASTER provides scientists in numerous disciplines with critical information for surface mapping and monitoring of dynamic conditions and temporal change. Example applications are: monitoring glacial advances and retreats; monitoring potentially active volcanoes; identifying crop stress; determining cloud morphology and physical properties; wetlands evaluation; thermal pollution monitoring; coral reef degradation; surface temperature mapping of soils and geology; and measuring surface heat balance.
The U.S. science team is located at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. The Terra mission is part of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C.
More information about ASTER is available at http://asterweb.jpl.nasa.gov/.