Measurements of spontaneous emission from InGaAsP semiconductor optical amplifiers provide information on both the carrier density and temperature. By spatially resolving the light emitted along the active layer of the device, we find evidence of longitudinal spatial hole burning which results from amplified spontaneous emission in the structure and is modified by the injected optical signal. Under injection, we also observe pronounced asymmetry of the amplified spontaneous emission intensity from the two facets which we relate to the carrier density profile. The experimental results are in good agreement with numerical simulations. An analysis of the measured spectra reveals an unexpected very high temperature (400 K) and its decrease by at least 35 K in the middle of the device when light is injected. (C) 2001 American Institute of Physics.