Article published in PRL

Our article Light of Two Atoms in Free Space: Bunching or Antibunching? has been published as Phys. Rev. Lett. 124, 063603.


Photon statistics divides light sources into three different categories, characterized by bunched, antibunched, or uncorrelated photon arrival times. Single atoms, ions, molecules, or solid state emitters display antibunching of photons, while classical thermal sources exhibit photon bunching. Here we demonstrate a light source in free space, where the photon statistics depends on the direction of observation, undergoing a continuous crossover between photon bunching and antibunching. We employ two trapped ions, observe their fluorescence under continuous laser light excitation, and record spatially resolved the autocorrelation function with a movable Hanbury Brown and Twiss detector. Varying the detector position we demonstrate that this source radiates fundamentally different types of light alike. The observed variation of the autocorrelation function is understood in the Dicke model from which the observed maximum and minimum values can be modeled, taking independently measured experimental parameters into account.