Photoelectron-counting distributions are obtained for stochastic light that is caused to scintillate by passage through a random medium. The result is applied specifically to transmission of amplitude-stabilized radiation, with and without independent additive background, and of chaotic radiation, through the turbulent atmosphere. The counting distribution is found to broaden markedly and its peak occurs at decreasing count numbers for increasing turbulence. The cases studied here are of particular interest for low-level direct optical communications and radar using single-mode lasers, multimode lasers, thermal sources, and scattering targets. The results are obtained by extending the usual formulation of photoelectron counting; a product of two random variables, the source intensity and the effect of the turbulent medium, rather than the usual single stochastic irradiance, is considered. Plots of the counting distributions for various degrees of turbulence and for several signal-to-noise ratios are presented. A possible explanation is given for the observed decrease of the log-amplitude variance to values below the saturation value in long path length and high turbulence experiments.
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