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We study theoretically and experimentally a new mechanism for the rotation of the polarization ellipse of a single laser beam propagating through an atomic vapor with a frequency tuned near an atomic resonance. The results of a theoretical treatment for the case of a J = 1/2 to J = 1/2 atomic transition show that a rotation of the polarization ellipse of the laser beam will occur as a result of ground-state optical pumping and that the angle of rotation is independent of the laser intensitydoi:10.1364/ol.17.001304 pmid:19798165 fatcat:gduvhvgcyrdr3ehy53t6wtk74m