We have studied effects of magnetic sublevel degeneracy on the polarization of superfluorescent pulses generated on the Ca transition at These pulses were generated from a cell of length 50 cm by optically pumping calcium vapor on the transition in the presence of Ar gas. The axis of ellipticity of superfluorescence (SF) polarization is oriented parallel to the axis of the pump-laser polarization at large detunings, and undergoes an abrupt rotation through for detunings close to resonance. The distribution of populations in the magnetic sublevels of the state can be estimated using a simple model based on previously calculated cross sections for collisionally aided absorption in the presence of an intense (pump) field. For large detunings, these estimates are consistent with the polarized SF intensity measured in the experiment. A direct measurement of the populations of the magnetic sublevels also supports the collisional redistribution predicted by the calculated cross sections. We therefore suggest that SF polarization can be a useful signature of collisional redistribution. However, the change in ellipticity is unexpected, and probable causes for this effect are discussed.
- Received 19 August 2002
- Revised 6 May 2003
- Published 10 September 2003
© 2003 The American Physical Society