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Excitation of ionic solids with extreme ultraviolet pulses creates localized core-level excitons, which in some cases couple strongly to the lattice. Here, core-level-exciton states of magnesium oxide are studied in the time domain at the Mg L2,3 edge with attosecond transient reflectivity spectroscopy. Attosecond pulses trigger the excitation of these short-lived quasiparticles, whose decay is perturbed by time-delayed near-infrared pulses. Combined with a few-state theoretical model, this reveals that the infrared pulse shifts the energy of bright (dipole-allowed) core-level-exciton states as well as induces features arising from dark core-level excitons. We report coherence lifetimes for the two lowest core-level excitons of 2.3±0.2 and 1.6±0.5 fs and show that these are primarily a consequence of strong exciton-phonon coupling, disclosing the drastic influence of structural effects in this ultrafast relaxation process.

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Physical Review Letters