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MISR Data System

Processing the Data Obtained from MISR


The MISR data system

As part of NASA's Earth Observing System (EOS), data from MISR is transmitted from the Terra spacecraft to the ground, where it is handled by the EOS Data and Information System (EOSDIS). EOSDIS is an extensive ground data system set up to manage the data from all of NASA's current Earth science research satellites. It's functions include controlling the spacecraft and its instruments, processing the instrument data into products useful for scientists, distributing those products, and archiving all the data and products.

MISR SDSEOS instrument data received by ground stations in New Mexico, Alaska, or Norway are passed to the EOS Data and Operations Center (EDOS) at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, where they are checked and divided into separate data streams, depending on the data type and destination. Science data are then forwarded to several sites across the United States, known as as Distributed Active Archive Centers (DAACs), where the data are processed into products, distributed, and archived. The DAAC that handles MISR data is within the Atmospheric Sciences Data Center (ASDC) at NASA's Langley Research Center in Virginia. The software for converting MISR data into usable science products is developed by the MISR Project staff at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California and provided to the ASDC for operational use. The MISR staff at JPL work closely with the ASDC staff to ensure MISR data products are produced in the desired order and with the required quality.

In addition to the processing of MISR data, the ASDC archives and distributes data products from a MISR airborne simulator called AirMISR. The ASDC also processes and manages the data from several other EOS instruments.In addition to the processing of MISR data, the ASDC archives and distributes data products from a MISR airborne simulator called AirMISR. The ASDC also processes and manages the data from several other EOS instruments.

Scientists interested in obtaining MISR data products should visit the ASDC's web site,

MISR's data products
MISR's data products

The generation of MISR science data products can be divided into five production steps, as illustrated above. It is convenient to think of these five steps as occurring in sequence, with the predecessor producing at least one complete product, a portion of which is the primary input for the successor. These steps are grouped into three "Levels," 1, 2, and 3. Level 1 processing provides corrected (or calibrated) instrument data. Level 2 processing provides retrieval of derived scientific quantities, such as atmospheric aerosol and cloud measurements. Level 3 processing produces global maps. Here is more detail about the individual products.

Level 1 Products

These have been processed and calibrated to remove many of the instrument effects. The resulting products thus contain minimal instrument or spacecraft artifacts and are most suitable for subsequent scientific derivations.

  • Level 1A: Reformatted Product

    The raw data from the instrument, which is intricately structured and compressed, is reformatted into more straightforward computer files. At the same time, many checks are made on the quality of the data to ensure that the instrument is working correctly.

  • Level 1B1: Radiometric Product

    Two types of processing are included in this product. Firstly, the Radiance Scaling operation converts the camera's digital output to a measure of energy incident on the front optical surface. The measurement is expressed in units called radiance (energy per unit area, wavelength, and solid angle) as defined by the an international scale. Secondly, Radiance Conditioning modifies the radiances to remove instrument-dependent effects. Specifically, image sharpening is provided, and focal-plane scattering is removed. Additionally, all radiances are adjusted to remove slight spectral sensitivity differences among the 1504 detector elements of each spectral band and each camera.

  • Level 1B2: Georectified Radiance ProductLevel 1B2: Georectified Radiance Product

    The nine sets of imagery from the nine cameras are registered to one another and to the ground. This is an image processing application made necessary because the nine views of each point on the ground are not acquired simultaneously (images from cameras at the two extreme angles are 7 minutes apart.) This product is mapped into a standard map projection called Space Oblique Mercator (SOM). There is a cloud mask derived as part of the Level 1B2, called thte Radiometric Camera-by-camera Cloud Mask (RCCM). (Other types of cloud mask form part of the Level 2 products.)

  • Local Mode Product Local Mode Product

    MISR is capable of taking image data in two different spatial resolution modes. In Local Mode, selected targets of 300 kilometers long are observed at the maximum resolution of 275 meters (pixel to pixel) in all cameras. Local Mode data target sites and acquisition history is available here.

Level 2 Products

These are geophysical measurements derived from the instrument data.

  • Level 2 Top-of-Atmosphere/Cloud Product


    This contains measurements of cloud heights and winds, cloud texture, top-of-atmosphere albedos and bidirectional reflectance factors, and other related parameters. Click the thumbnail image at the right to see what this product looks like.

  • Level 2 Aerosol/Surface Product


    This products includes a range of parameters such as tropospheric aerosol optical depth; aerosol composition and size; surface directional reflectance factors and bi-hemispherical reflectance; and other related parameters. Click the thumbnail image at the right to see an example of what this product looks like.

Level 3 Products

These are global maps of various parameter elements from the Level 2 products. The maps are produced monthly, seasonally (every three months), and annually. Visualization of select MISR Level 3 data is now available.

The Levels 1 and 2 products are in swaths, each derived from a single MISR orbit, where the imagery is 360 km wide and approximately 20,000 km long.

Implementing the MISR data products

The MISR Science Team currently consists of 17 members. Some are collocated with the MISR Project at JPL, but most are located at other facilities, such as universities, both in the United States and Europe. The Science Team provides the scientific algorithms, i.e. the scientific methods, used by the MISR Project staff to implement the software used in production of data products at the ASDC. The Science Team is also responsible for validating that the products contain the correct scientific content. This validation activity is described elsewhere on this web site.

At JPL, the MISR Project Staff base their development around a computing center known as the MISR Science Computing Facility (SCF). There is a high-speed on-line connection between the SCF and the ASDC/DAAC at NASA Langley. Production at the ASDC uses several Silicon Graphics Inc. (SGI) computers with a total of approximately 128 processors. For archiving purposes, the ASDC has on-line tape libraries with a total capacity of approximately 400 Terabytes to accommodate MISR data for the duration of the Terra mission.

The release of each data product goes through four stages: Alpha, Beta, Provisional, and ValidatedAlpha, Beta, Provisional, and Validated. MISR products are first released publicly at the Beta stage, and then progress through the Provisional to the Validated stage. MISR's Beta products became available in July 2000 for Level 1 and in March 2001 for Level 2 products. The initial Level 3 Beta products will be available in late 2001. The primary Level 2 products reached the first stage of Validated status by late 2003.