Experimental Astronomy

, Volume 41, Issue 3, pp 393–408 | Cite as

A daytime measurement of the lunar contribution to the night sky brightness in LSST’s ugrizy bands–initial results

  • Michael CoughlinEmail author
  • Christopher Stubbs
  • Chuck Claver
Original Article


We report measurements from which we determine the spatial structure of the lunar contribution to night sky brightness, taken at the LSST site on Cerro Pachon in Chile. We use an array of six photodiodes with filters that approximate the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope’s u, g, r, i, z, and y bands. We use the sun as a proxy for the moon, and measure sky brightness as a function of zenith angle of the point on sky, zenith angle of the sun, and angular distance between the sun and the point on sky. We make a correction for the difference between the illumination spectrum of the sun and the moon. Since scattered sunlight totally dominates the daytime sky brightness, this technique allows us to cleanly determine the contribution to the (cloudless) night sky from backscattered moonlight, without contamination from other sources of night sky brightness. We estimate our uncertainty in the relative lunar night sky brightness vs. zenith and lunar angle to be between 0.3–0.7 mags depending on the passband. This information is useful in planning the optimal execution of the LSST survey, and perhaps for other astronomical observations as well. Although our primary objective is to map out the angular structure and spectrum of the scattered light from the atmosphere and particulates, we also make an estimate of the expected number of scattered lunar photons per pixel per second in LSST, and find values that are in overall agreement with previous estimates.


Sky brightness LSST 



MC was supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program, under NSF grant number DGE 1144152. CWS is grateful to the DOE Office of Science for their support under award DE-SC0007881. Thanks also to Prof. Gary Swensen of Univ. of Illinois for hospitality in the ALO building at Pachon. We would also like to thank Dr. Tom Stone and an anonymous referee for comprehensive comments on an initial version of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhysicsHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.Department of AstronomyHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  3. 3.LSST ObservatoryTucsonUSA

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