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Physical Review A

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A minimum at similar to 39 eV is observed in the high-harmonic-generation spectra of N-2 for several laser intensities and frequencies. This minimum appears to be invariant for different molecular orientations. We reproduce this minimum for a set of laser parameters and orientations in time-dependent density-functional-theory calculations, which also render orientation-dependent maxima at 23-26 eV. Photon energies of these maxima overlap with ionization potentials of excited states observed in photoelectron spectra. Time profile analysis shows that these maxima are caused by resonance-enhanced multiphoton excitation. We propose a four-step mechanism, in which an additional excitation step is added to the well-accepted three-step model. Excitation to a linear combination of Rydberg states c(4)' (1)Sigma(+)(u) and c(3) (1)Pi(u) gives rise to an orientation-invariant minimum analogous to the "Cooper minimum" in argon. When the molecular axis is parallel to the polarization direction of the field, a radial node goes through the atomic centers, and hence the Cooper-like minimum coincides with the minimum predicted by a modified two-center interference model that considers the de-excitation of the ion and symmetry of the Rydberg orbital. DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevA.87.013434