We describe an approach to the computation of photon returns from mesospheric sodium beacons excited by laser pulse trains and discuss as specific examples the required numbers of photons for adaptive-optical compensation of atmospheric turbulence. Computed photon return signals are compared with reported measurements for pulses that are long, short, or comparable to the D<sub>2</sub> radiative lifetime (16 ns). Analytical approximations in good agreement with the numerical computations are derived. The results are consistent with experimental data for the different pulse durations.
© 1998 Optical Society of America
(010.1080) Atmospheric and oceanic optics : Active or adaptive optics
(010.1330) Atmospheric and oceanic optics : Atmospheric turbulence
(110.6770) Imaging systems : Telescopes
(140.3430) Lasers and laser optics : Laser theory
(350.1260) Other areas of optics : Astronomical optics
Peter W. Milonni, Robert Q. Fugate, and John M. Telle, "Analysis of measured photon returns from sodium beacons," J. Opt. Soc. Am. A 15, 217-233 (1998)