In short-exposure imaging through turbulence, there is some probability that the image will be nearly diffraction limited because the instantaneous wave-front distortion over the aperture was negligible. A number of years ago in a rather brief paper, Hufnagel (1966) argued heuristically that the probability of getting a good image would decrease exponentially with aperture area. This paper undertakes a rigorous quantitative analysis of the probability. We find that the probability of obtaining a good short-exposure image is Prob ≈ 5.6 exp[−0.1557 (D/r0)2] (for D/r0 ≥ 3.5), where D is the aperture diameter and r0 is the coherence length of the distorted wave front, as defined by Fried (1967). A good image is taken to be one for which the squared wave-front distortion over the aperture is 1 rad2 or less. The analysis is based on the decomposition of the distorted wave front over the aperture, in an orthonormal series with randomly independent coefficients. The orthonormal functions used are the eigenfunctions of a Karhunen-Loève integral equation. The integral equation is solved using a separation of variables into radial and azimuthal dependence. The azimuthal dependence was solved analytically and the radial, numerically. The first 569 radial eigenfunctions and eigenvalues were obtained. The probability of obtaining a good short-exposure image corresponds to a hyperspace integral in which the spatial dimensions are the independent random coefficients in the orthonormal series expansion. It is equal to the probability that a randomly chosen point in the hyperspace will lie within a hypersphere of unit radius, the points in the hyperspace being randomly chosen in accordance with the product of independent Gaussian probability distribution—one distribution for each dimension. The variance of these distrbutions is directly proportional to the eigenvalues of the Karhunen-Loève equation. This hyperspace integral (involving up to several hundred dimensions) has been evaluated using Monte Carlo techniques.
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