Surprisingly, if a ferromagnet is exposed to an ultrafast laser pulse, its apparent magnetization is reduced within less than a picosecond. Up to now, the total magnetization, i.e., the average spin polarization of the whole valence band, was not detectable on a sub-picosecond time scale. Here, we present experimental data, confirming the ultrafast reduction of the total magnetization. Soft x-ray pulses from the free electron laser in Hamburg (FLASH) extract polarized cascade photoelectrons from an iron layer excited by a femtosecond laser pulse. The spin polarization of the emitted electrons is detected by a Mott spin polarimeter.

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