Overdense plasmas are usually opaque to laser light. However, when the light is of sufficient intensity to drive electrons in the plasma to near light speeds, the plasma becomes transparent. This process—known as relativistic transparency—takes just a tenth of a picosecond. Yet all studies of relativistic transparency so far have been restricted to measurements collected over timescales much longer than this, limiting our understanding of the dynamics of this process. Here we present time-resolved electric field measurements (with a temporal resolution of ~ 50 fs) of the light, initially reflected from, and subsequently transmitted through, an expanding overdense plasma. Our result provides insight into the dynamics of the transparent-overdense regime of relativistic plasmas, which should be useful in the development of laser-driven particle accelerators, X-ray sources and techniques for controlling the shape and contrast of intense laser pulses.
- Physics and Astronomy(all)