A novel description of interference and diffraction with fields in arbitrary states of spatial coherence is introduced in the framework of the phase-space representation. The field is modeled as produced by radiant and virtual point sources. The first ones emit the radiant power of the field, independently of its spatial coherence state, and the second ones emit the modulating energy in strong dependence on such state. This energy can take on positive and negative values that produce the interference and diffraction patterns after adding them to the radiant energy. Radiant and virtual point sources at a given plane can be arranged over two distinct layers, which can be brought together to provide a unified structure of point sources for the field at such plane. So, the coincidence of specific radiant and virtual sources at the same point induces a further type: the dual point source. Descriptions of diffraction arrangements, Young’s experiment with diffraction effects, and some implications of this model are discussed.
© 2010 Optical Society of America
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