The error of generalized aliasing associated with the limited sampling of the atmospheric turbulence volume due to the finite number of wavefront sensing directions in wide-field-of-view adaptive optics is formally defined. Following a modal approach, we extend the direct problem formulation of star-oriented multi-conjugate adaptive optics (MCAO) to model and quantify this error analytically. We show that the turbulence estimation with the least-squares reconstructor is subject to strong generalized aliasing, in particular affecting the badly seen modes, whereas with the minimum-mean-square-error reconstructor the estimation is little affected. Finally, we show that the application of modal gain optimization techniques in closed-loop MCAO systems is jeopardized by the generalized aliasing error.
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