Experimental results are reported that show the effects of the self-induced thermal lens due to a high power laser beam on imaging or tracking systems viewing along the same propagation path. The thermal distortion effects of a wind are simulated with a low power (≲ 3-W) CO2 laser beam propagating through a cell of liquid CS2 moving across the beam. The resulting image distortion includes a warping effect analogous to the deflection of the CO2 beam, together with a pronounced demagnification of the central portion of the object. An active optical tracker is simulated with a He–Ne laser beam propagating collinearly with the C02 beam. The He–Ne beam pattern returned from a specular target is distorted and sharply confined to the outline of the crescent shaped CO2 beam. Simple ray optics models are used to provide qualitative explanations for the experimental results.
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