As discussed in the previous sections, the small scale fluctuations of electron density in the ionosphere lead to an excess phase for a radio wave passing through it. This excess phase is given by

where is the change in refractive index due to the electron density fluctuation, is a constant and is the fluctuation in electron density at the point (x,z) and the integral is over the entire path traversed by the ray (see Figure 16.4).

If we assume that is a zero mean Gaussian random process,
with auto-correlation function given by
, where
, then from the relation
above for we can determine that
, where L is the total path length through the
ionosphere^{16.2}. Let us
assume that a plane wavefront from an extremely distant point source is
incident on the top of such an ionosphere. In the absence of the ionosphere the
wave reaching the surface of the earth would also be a plane wave.
For a plane wave the correlation function of the electric field (i.e. the
visibility) is given by
,
i.e. a constant independent of . On passage through the ionosphere
however, different parts of the wave front acquire different phases, and
hence the emergent wavefront is not plane. If is the electric f
ield at some point on the emergent wave, then we have
. Since is just a constant, the correlation
function of the emergent electric field is

From our assumptions about the statistics of this can be evaluated to give

If is very large, then the exponent is falls rapidly to zero as increases (or equivalently when increases). It is therefore adequate to evaluate it for small values of , for which can be Taylor expanded to give . and we get

The emergent electric field hence has a finite coherence length (while the coherence length of the incident plane wave was infinite). From the van Cittert-Zernike theorem this is equivalent to saying that the original unresolved point source has got blurred out to a source of finite size. This blurring out of point sources is called ``angular broadening'' or ``scatter broadening''. If we define then the visibilities have a Gaussian distribution given by , meaning that the characteristic angular size of the scatter broadened source is . is called the ``scattering angle''.

On the other hand if is small then the exponent in eqn 16.5.6 can be Taylor expanded to give

This corresponds to the visibilities from an unresolved core (of flux density ) surrounded by a weak halo.

- ...
ionosphere
^{16.2} - This follows from the equation for if you also assume that