Abstract

A simulation modeling excitation of the sodium D2 line by nanosecond time scale pulsed lasers is described. By numerically integrating transition rates in the sodium hyperfine structure, the return flux per sodium atom is predicted as a function of laser power. The simulation should be useful for studies of mesospheric sodium and adaptive optics. Applications include the estimation of sodium column density from lidar return flux, and of laser guide star brightness for different pulsed laser formats. The simulation assumes that the pulse repetition frequency is sufficiently low (smaller than a few kilohertz) that atomic collisions restore local thermodynamic equilibrium between pulses. It is also assumed that the pulse length is short compared to the Larmor precession time scale. The numerical results are well-approximated by a simple analytic model for a three-level atom. The number of emitted photons is found to be primarily dependent on the product of the length of the laser pulse and the energy density.

© 2017 Optical Society of America

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