© 2016

General Theory of Light Propagation and Imaging Through the Atmosphere

  • Describes in detail star image measurement procedures for characterizing atmospheric beam-propagation and imaging paths

  • Provides simplified formulae for making rapid, on-site characterizations of star images and atmospheric paths using only a pocket calculator

  • Includes numerous graphical illustrations and tables to allow readers to digest and exploit the subject area quantitatively


Part of the Springer Series in Optical Sciences book series (SSOS, volume 196)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xxix
  2. T. Stewart McKechnie
    Pages 15-32
  3. T. Stewart McKechnie
    Pages 33-66
  4. T. Stewart McKechnie
    Pages 67-95
  5. T. Stewart McKechnie
    Pages 131-173
  6. T. Stewart McKechnie
    Pages 175-200
  7. T. Stewart McKechnie
    Pages 201-231
  8. T. Stewart McKechnie
    Pages 247-291
  9. T. Stewart McKechnie
    Pages 293-346
  10. T. Stewart McKechnie
    Pages 347-362
  11. T. Stewart McKechnie
    Pages 363-404
  12. T. Stewart McKechnie
    Pages 513-538
  13. T. Stewart McKechnie
    Pages 539-575
  14. Back Matter
    Pages 577-624

About this book


This book lays out a new, general theory of light propagation and imaging through Earth’s turbulent atmosphere. Current theory is based on the – now widely doubted – assumption of Kolmogorov turbulence. The new theory is based on a generalized atmosphere, the turbulence characteristics of which can be established, as needed, from readily measurable properties of point-object, or star, images.
The pessimistic resolution predictions of Kolmogorov theory led to lax optical tolerance prescriptions for large ground-based astronomical telescopes which were widely adhered to in the 1970s and 1980s. Around 1990, however, it became clear that much better resolution was actually possible, and Kolmogorov tolerance prescriptions were promptly abandoned. Most large telescopes built before 1990 have had their optics upgraded (e.g., the UKIRT instrument) and now achieve, without adaptive optics (AO), almost an order of magnitude better resolution than before.
As well as providing a more comprehensive and precise understanding of imaging through the atmosphere with large telescopes (both with and without AO), the new general theory also finds applications in the areas of laser communications and high-energy laser beam propagation.


Atmospheric Beam Propagation Atmospheric Paths Imaging Paths Imaging through Turbulence Kolmogorov Model Refractive Index Structure Kolmogorov Turbulence Large Astronomical Telescopes Light Propagation through Atmospheric Turbulence Point-object Images Star Images

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.ScotlandUnited Kingdom

About the authors

T. Stewart McKechnie, BS (Hons), MS, PhD, studied at Edinburgh University and Imperial College London, where he subsequently undertook postdoctoral research and lectured in Optics. After working at Loughborough University (UK), Dr. McKechnie went on to become a Consultant in Optics and program leader for optical system development of light valve and CRT-based projection TV systems at North American Philips Laboratories. In 1988 he joined Martin Marietta Corporation, Albuquerque, and in 1989 transferred to Lentec Corporation, where he was responsible for optics support at the Developmental Optics Facility relating to development of optical components for HEL systems. From 1992 to 2003 Dr. McKechnie was an Independent Optics Consultant at McKechnie Optics Research, his clients/projects including ITT Corp, NASA, the ATP Testbed program (formerly HABE), S Systems Corp, Aerotherm Corporation, Imaging Systems Laboratory (Florida Atlantic University) and Sandia National Laboratories. Between 2003 and 2009 he worked at ITT Corporation, Advanced Engineering & Sciences, Albuquerque, New Mexico, as Chief Scientist with responsibility for optical design, modeling, and construction of Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) and Laser Detection and Ranging (LADAR) remote sensing systems.

Bibliographic information

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