In usual measurements of the phase of an optical field it is generally assumed that the field is monochromatic. In reality this assumption is never justified. The distinction between monochromaticity and complete spatial coherence is first discussed, and it is then shown that with every spatially coherent field (e.g., a laser mode) one can associate a monochromatic wave that, in a well-defined sense, represents the average behavior of the field. Its phase can be measured by standard interferometric techniques and also by techniques developed in recent years for the measurement of the spectral degree of coherence of fields of arbitrary states of coherence.
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