The wavelength dependence of the lunar phase curve as seen by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter wide-angle camera

Bruce Hapke, Brett Denevi, Hiroyuki Sato, Sarah Braden, Mark Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter wide-angle camera measured the bidirectional reflectances of two areas on the Moon at seven wavelengths between 321 and 689 nm and at phase angles between 0° and 120°. It is not possible to account for the phase curves unless both coherent backscatter and shadow hiding contribute to the opposition effect. For the analyzed highlands area, coherent backscatter contributes nearly 40% in the UV, increasing to over 60% in the red. This conclusion is supported by laboratory measurements of the circular polarization ratios of Apollo regolith samples, which also indicate that the Moon's opposition effect contains a large component of coherent backscatter. The angular width of the lunar opposition effect is almost independent of wavelength, contrary to theories of the coherent backscatter which, for the Moon, predict that the width should be proportional to the square of the wavelength. When added to the large body of other experimental evidence, this lack of wavelength dependence reinforces the argument that our current understanding of the coherent backscatter opposition effect is incomplete or perhaps incorrect. It is shown that phase reddening is caused by the increased contribution of interparticle multiple scattering as the wavelength and albedo increase. Hence, multiple scattering cannot be neglected in lunar photometric analyses. A simplified semiempirical bidirectional reflectance function is proposed for the Moon that contains four free parameters and that is mathematically simple and straightforward to invert. This function should be valid everywhere on the Moon for phase angles less than about 120, except at large viewing and incidence angles close to the limb, terminator, and poles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberE00H15
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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