Landsat Missions

This site will be relocating soon!  Check out this HEADLINE for more details. 

Detector Failure

You are here

Known Issues

Landsat data are systematic, geometric, radiometric, and terrain corrected to provide the highest quality data to the user communities. Occasionally, anomalies occur and artifacts are discovered that require research and monitoring. The Landsat Calibration and Validation (Cal/Val) team investigates and tracks anomalous data.

A number of known issues regarding Landsat data are listed on this page. Updates to this list are not only made when new anomalies and artifacts are discovered, but also when investigations require changes to already existing issues.

If you discover data artifacts that are not listed here, please contact us.

Known Issues Home, Banding, Coherent Noise, Coherent Noise Storm, Data Loss, Detector Failure, Detector Ringing, Detector Striping, Gimbaled X-band Antenna (GXA) Anomaly, IC Intrusion, Impulse Noise (IN), Lower Truncation Acquisitions, Memory Effect (ME), Optical Leak, Oversaturation, Scan Correlated Shift (SCS), Scan Mirror Pulse, Shutter Synchronization Anomalies, Single Event Upset (SEU), Thermal Infrared Sensor Select Mechanism Anomaly

Detector Failure

Detector Failure is a term used for different anomalies that arise in the individual detectors of an instrument. Some of these anomalies are transient, while others are permanent.

Transient Detector Failure

Transient detector failure, also known as a "flaky detector," occurs when a single detector undergoes a sudden and drastic change in bias. Usually, the detector slowly returns to nominal behavior over the course of several scans. The cause of this artifact is unknown, but it is most likely due to energetic particle strikes within the detector circuitry. Transient failure has been observed many times in Landsat 5 Thematic Mapper (TM) data and once in Landsat 7 Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) data.

Landsat 7 ETM+ Band 6 Level 0 data. Transient failure in Detector 6.

Figure 1. Landsat 7 ETM+ Band 6 Level-0 data. Transient failure in Detector 6.
Click to view larger image. - .gif (245 KB)

Landsat 5 TM Band 4 Level 0 data. Transient failure in Detector 14.

Figure 2. Landsat 5 TM Band 4 Level-0 data. Transient failure in Detector 14.
Click to view larger image. - .gif (159 KB)

Landsat 5 TM Band 4 Level 1 data. Transient failure in Detector 14.

Figure 3. Landsat 5 TM Band 4 Level-1 data. Transient failure in Detector 14.
Click to view larger image. - .gif (764 KB)

Landsat 5 TM Band 5 Level 1 data. Transient failure in Detector 15.

Figure 4. Landsat 5 TM Band 5 Level-1 data. Transient failure in Detector 15.
Click to view larger image. - .gif (474 KB)

Flat Detector

A Flat Detector is a permanent but partial detector failure. Either the detector's bias values, the detector's gain values, or both are affected, with a resulting reduction in dynamic range. The detector return values may only vary within a range of a few DN values, or they may register a single constant value. They may also exhibit larger than usual random noise. Flat detectors have been seen in Landsat 4 TM and Side B engineering data in Landsat 7 ETM+, but these anomalies should not appear in any normal imagery.

Dead Detector

Absolute, permanent detector failure is known as a Dead Detector. Dead Detectors do not return any signal; they have a constant value of 0 Digital Number (DN). There are no dead detectors in any instruments on Landsats 5 or 7. Previous Landsat instruments have exhibited Dead Detectors near the end of their operating lifetime.

Detector Failure is uncorrectable, although interpolation of data from adjacent detectors can mitigate its effects. All forms of Detector Failure are matters for serious concern and may indicate progressive problems onboard the instrument. They are expected to increase in occurrence and severity as an instrument ages.


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.


Contact Us

Landsat Updates

The Landsat Update is an informal communication tool, prepared periodically and distributed electronically to USGS Landsat partners, to provide information about Landsat activities and related topics of interest.

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
Page Contact Information: Ask Landsat
Page Last Modified: 10/18/18 11:39 am