Skip to main content
Physics LibreTexts

2.12: Summary of Photometric Quantities

  • Page ID
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    ( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\)

    \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\)

    \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorA}[1]{\vec{#1}}      % arrow\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorAt}[1]{\vec{\text{#1}}}      % arrow\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorB}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorC}[1]{\textbf{#1}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorD}[1]{\overrightarrow{#1}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorDt}[1]{\overrightarrow{\text{#1}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectE}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash{\mathbf {#1}}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)

    With this chapter we have completed the description of the basic photometric quantities used in planetary photometry (although we have yet to embrace magnitude). These are summarised in Table III, in which those names in the first column correspond to those in standard usage, the exception being flux density F. The third and fourth columns correspond to standard symbols and units. In the second column may be found some names commonly, and not so commonly, used in astronomical literature.

    Table III. Photometric Quantities

    Name Synonyms Symbol SI Units
    Radiant Flux Radiant Power P, Φ W
    Radiant Flux Density Collimated Intensity F W • m-2
    Irradiance Insolation E W • m-2
    Exitance Emittance M W • m-2

    Surface Brightness

    Specific Intensity


    L W • m-2 sr-1
    Intensity Integrated Brightness I W • sr-1

    The author has seen the term “collimated intensity” used by only one author (Hapke) when referring to a plane parallel beam, and he finds it a more meaningful term than “flux density”, so much so that in standard usage the term “collimated radiance” would make a splendid alternative.

    The symbols have been used in their most general sense, without any subscripting or other embellishments so that e.g. L could mean Lλ, the radiance in the wavelength interval [λ, λ + dλ], or LV, the “visual radiance” in the Johnson V-band or indeed it could mean the radiance integrated over all wavelengths, the “bolometric radiance”.

    Reference Notes.

    Much of the content of this chapter is an adaptation from, and an extension to, the Theory of Planetary Photometry by

    1. Lester. P. L., McCall, M. L. & Tatum, J. B., 1979, J. Roy. Astron. Soc. Can., 73, 233.

    Further definitions, and interesting insights into the photometric quantities and standard usage may be found in the above reference, as well as in

    2. Stellar Atmospheres, Chap. 1.

    Sections 9 and 10 are based on an article by the author

    3. Fairbairn, M. B., 2004, J. Roy. Astron. Soc. Can., 98, 149

    in which a numerical example may be found in the appendix.

    This page titled 2.12: Summary of Photometric Quantities is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Max Fairbairn & Jeremy Tatum via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.