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Frequency chirped continuous-wave sodium laser guide stars: modeling and optimization

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Abstract

We numerically study a method to increase the photon return flux of continuous-wave laser guide stars using one-dimensional atomic cooling principles. The method relies on chirping the laser towards higher frequencies following the change in velocity of sodium atoms due to recoil, which raises atomic populations available for laser excitation within the Doppler distribution. The efficiency of this effect grows with the average number of atomic excitations between two atomic collisions in the mesosphere. We find the parameters for maximizing the return flux and evaluate the performance of chirping for operation at La Palma. According to our simulations, the optimal chirp rate lies between $ 0.8 {{-}} 1.0 \;{\rm MHz}/\unicode{x00B5} {\rm s} $, and an increase in the fluorescence of the sodium guide star up to 60% can be achieved with current 20-W-class guide star lasers.

© 2020 Optical Society of America

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