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Light Sensitivity

The main page you just left tells about the calibration of MISR while it is in orbit around Earth. MISR must also undergo calibration before launch, while it is still on the ground.

This photograph shows one of the key tools used during this prelaunch calibration, the integrating sphere. The sphere used for MISR is 65 inches diameter, and contains 25 light bulbs that can be turned on in various combinations to achieve different illumination levels. The reason for the spherical construction is that it results in highly uniform lighting across the sphere's rectangular aperture (visible in the photograph), large enough for the MISR sensors' 30-degree field of view. During the calibration process, one camera views the sphere at a time. The camera sits inside a vacuum chamber to simulate space, and views the sphere's aperture through a window in the chamber.

What range of sensitivity does MISR need?

It is anticipated that many scenes imaged by MISR will be quite dark, e.g. aerosols over water, while others will contain high reflectance contrasts, e.g. clouds over ocean, inland lakes surrounded by bright terrain. It is therefore imperative that the instrument provide high sensitivity for a wide range of scene reflectance (0.02% to 100%) without change in gain.

How much noise can the MISR detectors afford to have?

A signal to noise ratio greater than 100 for dark (2% reflectance) surfaces is typically required to attain sufficient radiometric precision.

The instrument sensitivity required for ocean color measurements has been calculated assuming a relatively turbid atmosphere (visibility around 8 km) and a marine aerosol. In order that uncertainties in the derived pigment concentrations be limited to factors inherent in the data reduction algorithms and not instrumental noise sources, a signal-to-noise ratio of around 300 is required for equivalent scene reflectances of between 4% and 20% for the four spectral (color) bands. This sensitivity will also be necessary to investigate aerosol effects over the oceans.

What is special about the way MISR is calibrated?

Because the important parameters for climate research are derived from measurements taken over times longer than the life of individual satellites, the only way to ensure that observed trends are the result of changes on Earth, and not in the instruments, is to provide and maintain an absolute calibration. Calibration also ensures a synergism between the various sensors operating at the same time, e.g., other EOS instruments on the Terra spacecraft, Landsat.

To meet these needs, MISR is calibrated using state-of-the-art techniques. This extends the use of standard detectors, commonly used in national standards laboratories, to both the preflight testing and the on-orbit environment. A material that has previously only been used in laboratories as a reflectance standard, called Spectralon, which is valued for its reflectance uniformity, is incorporated into the MISR On-Board Calibrator (OBC). The OBC consists of a pair of deployable Spectralon-coated plates that, when rotated into the field of view, reflect diffuse light from the sun directly into the instrument, where it is monitored not only by the main MISR cameras, but also (for comparison/calibration) by a set of precision photodiodes that measure the specific light levels. These photodiodes are expected to remain stable for the life of the instrument.

The OBC data are supplemented with so-called vicarious calibration data sets when MISR observes specific ground locations at the same time as complementary in-situ instruments (on Earth's surface). This calibration technique is desirable from two perspectives. Firstly, the vicarious data are collections of data taken in the same MISR configuration as all other science data. This provides assurance that the instrument is performing identically during calibration as during science data acquisition. Secondly, the independent methodology from in-situ measurements allows uncertainties to be determined.