The simulation of beam propagation is used to examine the uncertainty inherent to the process of optical power measurement with a practical heterodyne receiver because of the presence of refractive turbulence. Phase-compensated heterodyne receivers offer the potential for overcoming the limitations imposed by the atmosphere by the partial correction of turbulence-induced wave-front phase aberrations. However, wave-front amplitude fluctuations can limit the compensation process and diminish the achievable heterodyne performance.
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