We investigate the structure of second-order correlations in electromagnetic fields produced by statistically stationary, homogeneous, and isotropic current distributions. We show that the coherence properties of such fields within a low-loss or nondissipative medium do not depend on the source characteristics, but are solely determined by the propagation properties, and that the degree of coherence of the field is given by the sinc law. Our analysis reproduces the known results for blackbody fields, but it applies to a wider class of sources, not necessarily in thermal equilibrium. We discuss the physics behind the universal behavior of the correlations by comparing the results with those obtained by an electromagnetic plane-wave model.
- optical coherence theory