Landsat Missions

Landsat 8 (L8) Data Users Handbook

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This Landsat 8 (L8) Data Users Handbook is a living document prepared by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Landsat Project Science Office at the Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center in Sioux Falls, SD, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Landsat Project Science Office at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in Greenbelt, Maryland.

The purpose of this handbook is to provide a basic understanding and associated reference material for the L8 Observatory and its science data products. In doing so, this document does not include a detailed description of all technical details of the L8 mission, but instead focuses on the information that the users need to gain an understanding of the science data products.

This handbook includes various sections that provide an overview of reference material and a more detailed description of applicable data user and product information. This document includes the following sections:

Section 1 – Introduction describes the background for the L8 mission as well as previous Landsat missions.

Section 2 – Observatory Overview provides a comprehensive look at the current L8 Observatory, including the spacecraft, the Operational Land Imager (OLI) and Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS) instruments, and the L8 concept of operations.

Section 3 – Instrument Calibration includes an overview of radiometric and geometric instrument calibration as well as a description of the Observatory component reference systems and the Calibration Parameter File (CPF).

Section 4 – Level-1 Data Products includes a comprehensive description of Level-1 data products and product generation.

Section 5 – Conversion of DNs to Physical Units addresses the conversion of Digital Numbers (DNs) to physical units.

Section 6 – Data Search and Access includes an overview of data search and access using the various online tools.

Appendix A – Known Issues contains the applicable reference materials, along with the list of known issues associated with L8 data.

Appendix B – Metadata File (MTL.txt) contains an example of the Level-1 data product metadata file.


Download Landsat 8 (L8) Data User Handbook (.pdf 4.39 MB)


Landsat represents the world's longest continuously acquired collection of space-based moderate-resolution land remote sensing data. Four decades of imagery provides a unique resource for those who work in agriculture, geology, forestry, regional planning, education, mapping, and global change research. Landsat images are also invaluable for emergency response and disaster relief.


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