We report the photometric observation of a polychromatic laser guide star (PLGS) using the AVLIS laser at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). The process aims at providing a measurement of the tilt of the incoming wave front at a telescope induced by atmospheric turbulence. It relies on the two-photon coherent excitation of the energy level of sodium atoms in the mesosphere. We used two laser beams at 589 and 569 nm, with a maximum total average output power of ≈350 W. For the purpose of photometric calibration, a natural star was observed simultaneously through the same instrument as the PLGS at the focus of the LLNL 50-cm telescope. Photometric measurements of the 330-nm return flux confirm our previous theoretical studies that the PLGS process should allow us at a later stage to correct for the tilt at wavelengths as short as ≈1 µm at good astronomical sites. They show also that, at saturation of two-photon coherent absorption in the mesosphere, the backscattered flux increases by a factor of ≈2 when the pulse repetition rate decreases by a factor of 3 at constant average power. This unexpected behavior is briefly discussed.
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