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Theory of mesospheric sodium fluorescence excited by pulse trains

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Abstract

We describe a two-level model for the mesospheric sodium resonance fluorescence excited by a train of pulses. For pulse durations that are short compared with the 16-ns natural lifetime, population-rate equations are inadequate and must be replaced by density-matrix (Bloch) equations. We briefly contrast these two approaches and discuss several issues associated with pulse-train excitation. Analytical approximations to averages over atomic velocities and the transverse spatial profile of the laser are described. Estimates of return photon numbers for trains of pulses, ranging in duration from tens of picoseconds to half a nanosecond, are made and these estimates are compared with those of more conventional long-pulse lidar schemes. Roughly similar photon numbers are predicted for both long and short pulses whenever their average intensities are comparable. For average intensities, less than ~10 W/cm2, trains of ≈0.5-ns pulses yield greater photon returns than trains of ≈30-ps pulses. For larger intensities the reverse can be true.

© 1992 Optical Society of America

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