Measuring the absolute height and profile of the mesospheric sodium layer using a continuous wave laser
Butler, D. J.
Davies, R. I.
Redfern, R. M.
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Butler, D. J. Davies, R. I.; Redfern, R. M.; Ageorges, N.; Fews, H. (2003). Measuring the absolute height and profile of the mesospheric sodium layer using a continuous wave laser. Astronomy & Astrophysics 403 (2), 775-785
We have developed and tested a novel method, based on LIDAR, of measuring the height and profile of the mesospheric sodium layer using a continuous wave laser. It is more efficient than classical LIDAR as the laser is on for 50% of the time, and so can in principle be used during laser guide star adaptive optics observations. It also has significant advantages over direct imaging techniques because it does not require a second telescope, is almost independent of the atmospheric conditions, and avoids triangulation problems in determining the height. In the long term, regular monitoring using this method would allow a valuable database of sodium layer profiles, heights, and return flux measurements to be built up which would enable observatory staff astronomers to schedule observations optimally. In this paper we describe the original experiment carried out using the ALFA laser guide star system at Calar Alto Observatory in Spain. We validate the method by comparing the LIDAR results with those obtained from simultaneous imaging from an auxiliary telescope. Models are presented of a similar system to be implemented in the Very Large Telescope Laser Guide Star Facility, which will enable the initial focus setting for the adaptive optics systems to be determined with an accuracy of less than 200 m on a timescale of 1 min.