What is the difference between multispectral and hyperspectral imagery?

Geospatial Technology January 25, 2008|Print
Multispectral imagery is produced by sensors that measure reflected energy within several specific sections (also called bands) of the electromagnetic spectrum. Multispectral sensors usually have between 3 and 10 different band measurements in each pixel of the images they produce. Examples of bands in these sensors typically include visible green, visible red, near infrared, etc. Landsat, Quickbird, and Spot satellites are well-known satellite sensors that use multispectral sensors. Hyperspectral sensors measure energy in narrower and more numerous bands than multispectral sensors. Hyperspectral images can contain as many as 200 (or more) contiguous spectral bands. The numerous narrow bands of hyperspectral sensors provide a continuous spectral measurement across the entire electromagnetic spectrum and therefore are more sensitive to subtle variations in reflected energy. Images produced from hyperspectral sensors contain much more data than images from multispectral sensors and have a greater potential to detect differences among land and water features. For example, multispectral imagery can be used to map forested areas, while hyperspectral imagery can be used to map tree species within the forest.

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