We propose an optimal approach for the phase reconstruction in a large field of view (FOV) for multiconjugate adaptive optics. This optimal approach is based on a minimum-mean-square-error estimator that minimizes the mean residual phase variance in the FOV of interest. It accounts for the profile in order to optimally estimate the correction wave front to be applied to each deformable mirror (DM). This optimal approach also accounts for the fact that the number of DMs will always be smaller than the number of turbulent layers, since the profile is a continuous function of the altitude h. Links between this optimal approach and a tomographic reconstruction of the turbulence volume are established. In particular, it is shown that the optimal approach consists of a full tomographic reconstruction of the turbulence volume followed by a projection onto the DMs accounting for the considered FOV of interest. The case where the turbulent layers are assumed to match the mirror positions [model-approximation (MA) approach], which might be a crude approximation, is also considered for comparison. This MA approach will rely on the notion of equivalent turbulent layers. A comparison between the optimal and MA approaches is proposed. It is shown that the optimal approach provides very good performance even with a small number of DMs (typically, one or two). For instance, good Strehl ratios (greater than 20%) are obtained for a 4-m telescope on a by using only three guide stars and two DMs.
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