EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, CA— Scientists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) attached a telescope to a “near-space” ER-2 plane to measure the brightness of the moon.
In partnership with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and the University of Guelph, NIST hopes to improve the way earth-facing satellites take measurements that will aid scientists with tracking weather patterns, crop health trends, and tracking algal blooms in water, among other things.
According to a release, “The trip was a moonlight-gathering mission that has yielded some of the best measurements ever taken of the brightness, or more specifically the surface reflectance, of Earth’s nearest neighbor, the Moon.”
NASA’s ER-2 travels as high as 21 kilometers, or 13 miles, above the earth’s surface. At that height, twice the cruising altitude of a commercial aircraft, the equipment was able to capture moonlight measurements above 95% of the Earth’s atmosphere. The mission launched from the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center in California.