We investigate our ability to determine the mean position, or centroid, of a linear array of equally bright incoherent point sources of light whose continuum limit is the problem of estimating the center of a uniformly radiating object. We consider two receivers, an image-plane ideal direct-detection imager and a receiver that employs Hermite-Gaussian (HG) spatial-mode demultiplexing in the image plane, prior to shot-noise-limited photon detection. We compare the Fisher information (FI) for estimating the centroid achieved by these two receivers, which quantifies the information-accrual rate per photon, and compare those with the quantum Fisher information (QFI): the maximum attainable FI by any choice of measurement on the collected light allowed by physics. We find that focal-plane direct imaging is strictly suboptimal, although not by a large margin. We also find that not only is the HG mode sorter, which is the optimal measurement for estimating the separation between point sources (or the length of a line object), suboptimal, but it performs worse than direct imaging. We study the scaling behavior of the QFI and direct imaging's FI for a continuous uniformly bright object in terms of its length and find that both are inversely proportional to the object's length when it is sufficiently larger than the Rayleigh length. Finally, we propose a two-stage adaptive modal receiver design that attains the QFI for centroid estimation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics