6 October 2015 Lunar laser ranging and limits due to the Earth’s atmosphere
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The ultimate limits on high accuracy laser ranging to satellites from the ground appear to be caused by the effects of the earth’s atmosphere. Other impediments in terms of lasers, timing equipment and calibration seem to be evolving to the point of providing very high accuracy. We shall address the role of the earth’s atmosphere for lunar laser ranging. In the near future, the robotic deployment of next generation lunar laser retroreflectors is planned. With proper robotic deployment, these retroreflectors may support single photo-electron ranging accuracy at the 100 micron level or better. In particular, there are questions of the random and systematic delays and broadening of a very narrow laser pulse. Theoretical and experimental results will be discussed that address estimates of the magnitudes of these effects and the issue of precision vs. accuracy. These effects may be roughly divided into three domains: High frequency effects due to atmospheric turbulence, low frequency effects due to atmospheric “slopes” and atmospheric waves and tides and spectral dispersion of the narrow pulse. In conclusion, the route to better ranging through the earth’s atmosphere appears to be more advance modeling of local meteorological effects, in a program that can be implemented at a reasonable cost.
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Douglas Currie, Douglas Currie, Ivan Prochazka, Ivan Prochazka, } "Lunar laser ranging and limits due to the Earth’s atmosphere", Proc. SPIE 9614, Laser Communication and Propagation through the Atmosphere and Oceans IV, 96140C (6 October 2015); doi: 10.1117/12.2190834; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2190834

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