The imaging quality of optical systems in a turbid environment is influenced not only by the content of the turbid layer between the object and the optical receiver but also by the inhomogeneity of that medium. This is important, particularly when imaging is performed through clouds, nonhomogeneous layers of dust, or over vertical or slant paths through the atmosphere. Forward small-angle scattering influences image quality and blur more severely when the scattering layer is closer to the receiver. In this study it is the influence of the relative position of the scattering layer on the image quality and modulation transfer function (MTF) that is investigated. The scattering layer in controlled laboratory experiments consists of calibrated polystyrene particles of known size and quantity in a small cuvette. A point source was imaged by a computerized imaging system through a layer containing polystyrene particles, and the point-spread function (PSF) was recorded. The aerosol MTF was calculated using the measured PSF. The MTF was measured as a function of changing relative distance of the scattering layer from the receiver, whereas the object-plane-to-receiver distance was constant. The experimental results were compared to theoretical shower curtain effect models based on the solution from radiative transfer theory under the small-angle approximation. Although the general trend of the experimental results certainly agrees with the theoretical models, it could be that the small-angle approximation method might be of limited validity at such low spatial frequencies. Aggregation also causes some disagreement with predictions from theory.
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