The dynamics of an ensemble of two-level atoms in a single-mode resonant laser cavity with external pumping and a weak coherent probe are investigated. Homoclinic orbits connected to the completely inverted atomic state are found analytically using linear perturbation theory (the Melnikov method) in the near-integrable limit, and are continued in the parameter space to O (1) parameter values using the bifurcation code AUTO. The breakup of these homoclinic orbits is believed to be a source of chaos in the system.

This work was partly supported by the U.S. Department of Energy through grant DE-FG02-93ER25154.

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