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We investigate theoretically how the spectroscopy of an ancillary qubit can probe cavity (circuit) QED ground states containing photons. We consider three classes of systems (Dicke, Tavis-Cummings and Hopfield-like models), where non-trivial vacua are the result of ultrastrong coupling between N two-level systems and a single-mode bosonic field. An ancillary qubit detuned with respect to the boson frequency is shown to reveal distinct spectral signatures depending on the type of vacua. Indoi:10.1103/physrevlett.114.183601 pmid:26001000 fatcat:ccixz452ubdmnpz5zxrfv3yfem