Imaging the evolution of an ultracold strontium Rydberg gas
Clouds of ultracold strontium 5s48s1S0 or 5s47d1D2 Rydberg atoms are created by two-photon excitation of laser-cooled 5s21S0 atoms. The spontaneous evolution of the cloud of low orbital angular momentum (low-ℓ) Rydberg states towards an ultracold neutral plasma is observed by imaging resonant light scattered from core ions, a technique that provides both spatial and temporal resolution. Evolution is observed to be faster for the S states, which display isotropic attractive interactions, than for the D states, which exhibit anisotropic, principally repulsive interactions. Immersion of the atoms in a dilute ultracold neutral plasma speeds up the evolution and allows the number of Rydberg atoms initially created to be determined.