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The complex spectral degree of coherence of a general random, statistically stationary electromagnetic field is introduced in a manner similar to the way it is defined for a beamlike field, namely, by means of Young’s interference experiment. Both its modulus and its phase are measurable. We illustrate the definition by applying it to blackbody radiation emerging from a cavity. The results are of particular interest for near-field optics.


This paper was published in Journal of the Optical Society of America A and is made available as an electronic reprint with the permission of OSA. The paper can be found at the following URL on the OSA website: Systematic or multiple reproduction or distribution to multiple locations via electronic or other means is prohibited and is subject to penalties under law.

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