Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Lunar Spectral Irradiance and radiance (LUSI): new instrumentation to characterize the Moon as a space-based radiometric standard



Allan W. Smith, Steven R. Lorentz, Raju V. Datla, Thomas C. Stone


The need to understand and monitor climate change has led to proposed radiometric accuracy requirements for space-based remote-sensing instruments that are very stringent and currently beyond the reach of many Earth orbiting instruments. A major problem is quantifying changes in sensor performance that occur from launch and during the mission. To address this problem on-orbit calibrators and monitors have been developed, but they too can suffer changes from launch and the harsh space environment. One potential solution is to use the Moon as a calibration reference source. Already the Moon has been used to remove post-launch drift and to cross-calibrate different instruments, but further work is needed to develop a new model with low absolute uncertainties capable of climate-quality absolute calibration of Earth observing instruments on orbit. To this end, we are proposing an Earth-based instrument suite to measure the absolute lunar spectral irradiance to an uncertainty* of 0.5 % (k=1) over the spectral range from 320 nm to 2500 nm with a spectral resolution of approximately 0.3 %. Absolute measurements of lunar radiance also will be acquired to facilitate calibration of high spatial resolution sensors. The instruments will be deployed at high elevation astronomical observatories and flown on high-altitude balloons in order to mitigate the effects of the Earth’s atmosphere on the lunar observations. Periodic calibrations using instrumentation and techniques available from NIST will ensure SI-traceability and low absolute radiometric uncertainties.
Journal of Research (NIST JRES) - 117.011
Report Number


moon, radiometry, satellite sensor calibration


Smith, A. , Lorentz, S. , Datla, R. and Stone, T. (2012), Lunar Spectral Irradiance and radiance (LUSI): new instrumentation to characterize the Moon as a space-based radiometric standard, Journal of Research (NIST JRES), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online], (Accessed July 24, 2024)


If you have any questions about this publication or are having problems accessing it, please contact

Created July 17, 2012, Updated November 10, 2018