A semi-classical theory of coherent light scattering from an elongated sample of cold atoms exposed to an off-resonant laser beam is presented. The model, which is a direct extension of that of the collective atomic recoil laser, describes the emission of two superradiant pulses along the sample's major axis simultaneous with the formation of a bidimensional atomic grating inside the sample. It provides a simple physical picture of the recent observation of collective light scattering from a Bose-Einstein condensate [Science 285 (1999) 571]. In addition, the model provides an analytical description of the temporal evolution of the scattered light intensity which shows good quantitative agreement with the experimental results of Inouye et al.
- atomic grating