The flow over a circular cylinder at ReD = 3900 and 10000 and M = 0.4 is considered a platform to study the aero-optical distortions by separated shear layers and turbulent wakes. The flow solution is obtained by large eddy simulation (LES) and validated against previous experimental and numerical results. The fluctuating refractive index obtained from LES is used in a ray-tracing calculation to determine wavefront distortions after the beam passes through the turbulent region. Free-space propagation to the far field is computed using Fourier optics. The optical statistics are analysed for different conditions in terms of optical wavelength, aperture size and the beam position. It is found that there exists an optimal wavelength which maximizes the far-field peak intensity. Optical results at both Reynolds numbers are compared. The optical distortion by the downstream turbulent wake is found to be Reynolds number insensitive. However, due to their different transition mechanisms, distortions by the near wake regions are different in the two flows. The aero-optical effects of different flow scales are examined using filtering and grid refinement. Through a grid convergence study it is confirmed that an adequately resolved LES can capture the aero-optics of highly aberrating flows without requiring additional subgrid scale model for the optics.
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