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A new extendable method for the simulation of atmospheric wave-fronts with turbulence intermittency is reported. The purpose is to generate simulations consistent with the distributions observed for the turbulence parameters and the seeing, not available with standard methods. The intermittency is included by entering log-normal distributed arrays for the Fried parameter and the spatial coherence outer scale length into an extended form of the phase spectrum. The method is tested on large samples of simulated long-exposure point-source images. The tests show the agreement of the simulations with literature data. The simulations show that the intermittency affects negligibly the long-term median image size but breaks the symmetry of the wave-front phase spectrum, scatters the phase structure function and changes the image profile.

The numerical simulation of turbulent wave-fronts is widely used as a tool for the design of ground-based telescopes, adaptive optics, and image processing applications. Dependable simulations are particularly important in the projects of the ground-based extremely large telescopes in course of realization in the 30 to 40 m aperture range.

Time-evolving and space-variant implementations are required to carefully model the complex turbulent structure of the Earth atmosphere [_{0}. In the visual band at the wavelength of 500 nm the median value of r_{0} ranges from about 5 to 25 cm [_{0} is nearly log-normal with a dispersion of about 0.2 [_{0} ranges from about 1 to 7 mm [_{0} ranges from about 15 to 25 m, depending upon the site, the thickness of the dominant atmospheric layer, and the height of the observer above the ground [_{0} is nearly log-normal with a dispersion of about 0.22 [

The atmospheric turbulence determines the astronomical seeing defined as the Full Width at Half Maximum (FWHM) of the long-exposure image of an astronomical point-source observed at ground and corrected for the telescope diffraction Point Spread Function (PSF). This standard definition of seeing takes into account the reality of astronomical observations which are stationary only on limited time scales. In the visual band the seeing in top sites shows a world-wide median of about 0.8 arc-second and a long-term log-normal distribution with a dispersion of about 0.2 mainly driven by the dispersion of the turbulence strength.

The distributions of the turbulence parameters and the seeing follow the spatial and temporal variability of the turbulence, the so called intermittency [

In all cases the intermittency cut-off time sets the Taylor frozen flow scale [_{0} and L_{0}. At larger scales non-stationary simulations are needed to take into account the variability of the turbulence parameters.

Simulations with one-dimensional non-stationarity are available [_{0} intermittency. This work aims to implement comprehensive simulations of phase screens with full turbulence intermittency. The intermittency is included by first simulating the Fried parameter r_{0} and the outer scale length L_{0} as two-dimensional random screens of appropriate statistics and then entering such screens into the phase spectrum. This new approach takes into account the variability under stationary spectrum assumption and can be generalized to any other parameter of the spectrum if required.

The new method is described in Section 2. The method is tested on large simulated samples of long-exposure point-source images. The simulations of the images are implemented by means of the standard procedures recalled in Sections 3. The results are reported in section 4 and show the agreement with literature data. The results are finally summarized in the concluding remarks.

The standard simulation of the turbulent atmospheric wave-front, namely the phase screen generated by one single stationary, isotropic, homogeneous atmospheric layer can be implemented by various algorithms such as the Fast-Fourier-Transform (FFT) method [

The FFT method computes the phase screen by means of the inverse-Fourier-transform of the product of a random noise and the square root of the phase spectrum:^{}

where j(r) is the simulated phase screen, r = (x,y) is the spatial vector, f = (f_{x},f_{y}) is the spatial frequency, F is the two-dimensional FFT transform, H is a complex hermitian (0,1)-normal random noise, and F is the phase spectrum of the turbulence model. The screen has spatial size G × G m^{2} and N × N pixels. The real and imaginary phase values yield two independent random normal distributions following the given spectrum. The accuracy of the FFT method depends on the support size and sampling and is then limited by the computing resources. The accuracy can be improved by harmonic sub-sampling and weighting if needed [

In order to include the intermittency the phase spectrum must be extended for the spatial variability of the Fried parameter and the outer scale length. The space-variant phase spectrum F(f,r) is obtained here from the space-invariant spectrum F(f) for von Kármán turbulence with zero inner scale length [see 27] making explicit the space dependence of r_{0} and L_{0} as follows:

where r_{0}(r) and L_{0}(r) are two-dimensional real arrays of log-normal statistics which describe the Fried parameter and the outer scale length screens. All screens have spatial size G × G m^{2} and N × N pixels. For constant values of the r_{0}- and L_{0}-screens the phase spectrum degenerates to the case without intermittency. The phase spectrum is set to zero at zero spatial frequency for consistence with the zero-mean phase constraint. Phase spectra that rolls off smoothly to zero at scales larger than the outer scale length are available [

The r_{0}(r) and L_{0}(r) screens are implemented here by scaling random normal arrays with the observed intermittency spectrum so as to match the observed log-normal distributions of r_{0} and L_{0}. The random normal intermittency array i(r) can be computed by any simulation method. Using the standard FFT method the array i(r) is given by:

where I(f) is the normalized two-dimensional intermittency spectrum of the atmospheric turbulence. The r_{0}(r) and L_{0}(r) screens are then computed by scaling the array i(r) as follows:

where r_{0} and s(r_{0})^{ }are the observed median and dispersion of Log(r_{0}), L_{0} and s(L_{0}) are the observed median and dispersion of Log(L_{0}),^{ }and power, median and sigma are the two-dimensional power, median and standard deviation operators. Notice that two independent random normal i(r)-screens must be computed for r_{0} and separately for L_{0} in order to enforce the de-correlation observed between these parameters.

The normalized intermittency spectrum I(f) can be computed by means of the two-dimensional Hankel transform H [

where exp and abs are respectively the exponential and the absolute value operators and L is the autocorrelation cut-off length at exp(−1). In this work L is set to 0.55L_{0} in order to fit the de-correlation observed at the lag of about 12 s. This choice is arbitrary within the range of observed values (see [

Notice that the new method presented here is able to isolate the effects of the intermittency of one turbulence parameter by taking constant the others. This follows from the de-correlation of r_{0} from L_{0} and eventually other parameters in Equation (2).

One simulated r_{0}-screen with log-normal intermittency is shown in _{0} values fit closely the assigned log-normal distribution. The results for the simulated outer scale length screen are full similar. One phase spectrum for von Kármán turbulence with log-normal intermittency is shown in

Finally, the phase structure functions (see Equations (11) and (12)) of 10 series of 10 simulations with lognormal intermittency updated once per simulation are shown in _{0}-intermittency at constant L_{0} as already reported by Tubbs (see [_{0}-intermittency. The small scale fluctuations are due to the limited statistics.

The tests of the new method are carried out using the distributions of the seeing. The seeing is defined as usual by the size of long-exposure point-source images. The seeing can be observed directly on astronomical images or indirectly through measurements of the turbulence parameters. The seeing can also be computed theoretically as a function of the Fried parameter and the outer scale length by means of the Tokovinin approximation for the von Kármán model [

where e_{VK} (rad) is the FWHM and l is the wavelength. The approximation holds within 1% accuracy for L_{0}/r_{0} > 20. At such large L_{0}/r_{0} ratios the distribution of e_{VK} approximates the distribution of r_{0} and is practically independent of L_{0}. This is in agreement with the measurements of seeing commonly based on DIMM, Shack-Hartmann or interferometric estimates of the Fried parameter [_{VK} are used here as theoretical references for the simulations.

The test data are measured on a large number of simulated images. For redundancy each image is computed in two standard modes, the first by means of the average of a time series of simulated instant PSFs (speckles) [

Using the first method, which mimics the real operations at the telescope, the raw long-exposure point-source image PSF_{LE, raw} at zero atmospheric scintillation inclusive of the telescope diffraction PSF is given by:

where w is the pupil function of value 1 inside and 0 outside the telescope aperture, j_{k} is the phase screen simulated at time k∆t, ∆t is the sampling time, and n is the number of phase screens. The true FWHM_{LE} is obtained by quadratic subtraction from FWHM_{LE, raw} of the telescope diffraction FWHM.

Using the second method the long-exposure point-source image PSF_{LE} is given by:

where the optical transfer function OTF is obtained from the phase structure function D through the phase autocorrelation B averaged over the time series of simulated phase screens:

The values of FWHM are computed by means of the polynomial fit of the azimuthal average of the PSF images in order to improve the signal to noise ratio and the accuracy of the estimates.

The simulation of long-exposure images requires time-evolving phase screens in order to account the evolving structure of the Earth atmosphere. The night-time structure can be approximated by a set of multiple turbulent layers blown by winds in horizontal motion parallel to the ground surface [

where a_{k} is the weight for the k-th layer and n the number of layers. This expression is strictly valid only under Rytov approximation and neglecting the propagation.

The autocorrelation cut-off time of the turbulence determines the Taylor frozen flow scale within which the time evolving phase screens can be simulated by rigid spatial shifts of stationary phase screens moving at the average wind velocity. The shifts are conveniently implemented in the Fourier domain as follows [

where j_{2}(r) is the shifted phase screen, j_{1}(r) is the initial phase screen, sx and sy are the fractional x and y-shift offsets due to the wind, and x and y the support mesh spatial arrays.

The average dispersion of the wind velocities between the layers determines the phase boiling which is characterized by a lifetime of about 5 to 25 ms in the visual band [^{−}^{1}.

The phase boiling can be also approximated by means of statistically evolving Markov processes as follows (see [

where j_{2}(r) is the evolved phase screen, j_{1}(r) is the initial phase screen, j(r) is an auxiliary independent phase screen, a(r) = 2 m abs(r)/G is a Fourier domain weight, and m is a constant which controls the process. A value of m = 1 provides an equivalent phase boiling lifetime of about 16 ms in the visual band. Both methods are established standards and both are used here for redundancy in the tests of the new simulation method.

The procedures reported in the previous sections were implemented in Matlab and used to simulate several distributions of the image size (seeing) with turbulence intermittency. Every distribution was computed by means of 1000 images of 1 s exposure time with the intermittency updated once per image. The global simulation time is therefore equal to 1000 intermittency cut-off times, equivalent to about 3.3 hours for the selected cut-off time of 12 s. Every image was computed by means of 100 Taylor shifts of the simulated phase screen with 10 ms sampling time.

The images were computed in K band at the wavelength of 2166 nm with the two methods reported in sub-section 3.1. The phase boiling was simulated with the two methods reported in Section 3.2, using first the basic two-layers model with equal weights a1 = a2 = 0.71 and then the Markov de-correlation model with m = 1. Notice that the minimalist models used here are proposed just for testing the new simulation method and not at all as an accurate descriptor of the atmospheric structure.

The phase screens were simulated for the two cases of log-normal r_{0} intermittency at constant L_{0} and lognormal r_{0} and L_{0} intermittency. The turbulence parameters were median r_{0} = 0.554 m, sLog(r_{0}) = 0.20, median L_{0} = 22 m, sLog(L_{0}) = 0.22, intermittency autocorrelation cut-off L = 12.1 m, wind velocity 8 ms^{−1}, and telescope aperture D = 39 m. The phase screen size was set to 80 m × 80 m and 1024 × 1024 pixels in order to avoid aliasing and sample the phase below the r_{0} scale.

The profile of one long-exposure image simulated with log-normal r_{0} and L_{0} intermittency is shown (

One sample distribution of seeing simulated with log-normal r_{0} and L_{0} intermittency is shown in _{VK} as well as observations such as the data by Martin et al. scaled from GSM to K band (see

The images for the results shown above were computed with the two-layers boiling model and the Fourier Tranform of the OTF. The results with the Markov boiling model and the speckles-based image formation are full close for both the image profile and the seeing distribution.

The simulations implemented with the new method show that the intermittency breaks the symmetry of the wave-front phase spectrum, scatters the phase structure function and affects the statistics of the seeing and the shape of point-source images. The log-normal distribution observed for the seeing looks to follow mostly the intermittency-driven variability of the turbulence strength. The intermittency affects only slightly the median size of long-exposure point-source images. Instead, the intermittency of the turbulence strength dominates the long-term dispersion of the seeing while the intermittency of the outer scale length dominates the short-term phase structure function. Moreover, possible anisotropies of the intermittency may affect the ellipticity of the atmospheric PSF.

The inclusion of intermittency in the simulation of atmospheric wave-fronts is therefore required for accurate modeling on large ranges of spatial and temporal scales. In this work the intermittency is included by means of log-normal distributed arrays for the Fried parameter and the spatial coherence outer scale length. The new method is then fully extendable and easy to implement on vector-oriented software platforms.

The tests of the new procedure show the good agreement of the simulations with literature data either for the image profile and the distribution of the image size. The pervasive role of the intermittency recommends the multi-point monitoring of all turbulence parameters for optimum control of ground based adaptive optics systems.

This work was done under the research contract No. 6175/2013 by the Department of Physics, Trieste University, Italy.