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The solar elevation angle is the altitude of the sun (angle between the horizon and the center of the sun). It is an important factor to consider when planning passive airborne data collection. The minimum solar elevation allowed in missions for topographic mapping is typically 30° from the horizon. Solar elevations will vary from place to place and the time of year.
Since these two angles are complementary, the cosine of either one equals the sine of the other. Both can be calculated using the same formula and results from spherical trigonometry.
When planning airborne acquisition projects, I often refer to the NOAA Solar Position Calculator It will help you determine the Sunrise, Sunset, Solar Noon and Solar Position for Any Place on Earth.
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The content on this page was derived from the document titled ‘Introduction & Simple Guide to Using the Leica Total Station’ published by Ted MacKinnon and Jonathan Murphy in 2004 as part of a requirement for the Applied Geomatics Research advanced Post Graduate Diploma at COGS.
(In 2011 it was revised and updated). The full version of the document can be downloaded by clicking here.