A lidar system has been built to measure atmospheric-density fluctuations and the temperature in the upper stratosphere, the mesosphere, and the lower thermosphere, measurements that are important for an understanding of climate and weather phenomena. This lidar system, the Purple Crow Lidar, uses two transmitter beams to obtain atmospheric returns resulting from Rayleigh scattering and sodium-resonance fluorescence. The Rayleigh-scatter transmitter is a Nd:YAG laser that generates 600 mJ/pulse at the second-harmonic frequency, with a 20-Hz pulse-repetition rate. The sodium-resonance–fluorescence transmitter is a Nd:YAG-pumped ring dye laser with a sufficiently narrow bandwidth to measure the line shape of the sodium D2 line. The receiver is a 2.65-m-diameter liquid-mercury mirror. A container holding the mercury is spun at 10 rpm to produce a parabolic surface of high quality and reflectivity. Test results are presented which demonstrate that the mirror behaves like a conventional glass mirror of the same size. With this mirror, the lidar system’s performance is within 10% of theoretical expectations. Furthermore, the liquid mirror has proved itself reliable over a wide range of environmental conditions. The use of such a large mirror presented several engineering challenges involving the passage of light through the system and detector linearity, both of which are critical for accurate retrieval of atmospheric temperatures. These issues and their associated uncertainties are documented in detail. It is shown that the Rayleigh-scatter lidar system can reliably and routinely measure atmospheric-density fluctuations and temperatures at high temporal and spatial resolutions.
© 1995 Optical Society of America
Original Manuscript: November 9, 1994
Revised Manuscript: June 2, 1995
Published: October 20, 1995
R. J. Sica, S. Sargoytchev, P. S. Argall, E. F. Borra, L. Girard, C. T. Sparrow, and S. Flatt, "Lidar measurements taken with a large-aperture liquid mirror. 1. Rayleigh-scatter system," Appl. Opt. 34, 6925-6936 (1995)