Currently, most full-polarimetric synthetic aperture radar (SAR) systems adopt linear polarization (LP). On the other hand, circular polarization (CP) is also becoming popular due to its various benefits over LP. However, since CP-SAR is an emerging technique, there are not many imaging and polarimetric analysis results in the literature. As a fundamental study on CP-SAR, this paper presents the results of an investigation on the CP properties of ground-based SAR (GB-SAR) echoes from various canonical targets and a rice paddy sample. The C-band data acquired in a laboratory environment are analyzed and interpreted by means of several factors such as calibration performance, experimental verification of theoretical scattering matrices, imaging quality and accuracy of scattering decomposition results. The eigenvector-based decomposition of the coherency matrix is adopted, and the performance of CP in retrieving the targets' dominant scattering mechanisms and physical parameters is evaluated from entropy-alpha (H-α) plane and orientation angle (β) value. Results demonstrate the effectiveness of CP in interpreting and discriminating the SAR image features mainly owing to its distinct advantage of highly reliable received signal strength.
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