We extend our previous analysis of the sodium beacon [J. Opt. Soc. Am. A <b>15</b>, 217 (1998)] to the case of continuous-wave excitation. Various effects that could be ignored in the case of pulsed excitation, such as the geomagnetic field, the recoil of the sodium atoms upon absorption and emission, and collisions of the sodium atoms with other mesospheric species, are included. Spin-relaxation collisions are among the most important of these effects for the cases considered. Analytical approximations to numerical results are presented, and using a semi-empirical estimate for Na-O<sub>2</sub> spin relaxation, we compute photon returns in good agreement with recently reported measurements at the Steward Observatory.
© 1999 Optical Society of America
(010.1080) Atmospheric and oceanic optics : Active or adaptive optics
(020.2070) Atomic and molecular physics : Effects of collisions
(280.3640) Remote sensing and sensors : Lidar
(350.1260) Other areas of optics : Astronomical optics
Peter W. Milonni, Heidi Fearn, John M. Telle, and Robert Q. Fugate, "Theory of continuous-wave excitation of the sodium beacon," J. Opt. Soc. Am. A 16, 2555-2566 (1999)