Infrared (IR) Earth thermal tracking is a viable option for optical communications to distant planet and outer-planetary missions. However, blurring due to finite receiver aperture size distorts IR Earth images in the presence of Earth’s nonuniform thermal emission and limits its applicability. We demonstrate a deconvolution algorithm that can overcome this limitation and reduce the error from blurring to a negligible level. The algorithm is applied successfully to Earth thermal images taken by the Mars Odyssey spacecraft. With the solution to this critical issue, IR Earth tracking is established as a viable means for distant planet and outer-planetary optical communications.
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