Ge/Ay 132: Atomic and Molecular
Processes in Astronomy
& Planetary Science


Instructor:      Geoffrey A. Blake
                           165A South Mudd (x 6296)
Office Hours: Mon-Tue 11 am-noon, but generally available.

Geoff is now Vice Chair of the Caltech faculty, and so will be busy
on many fronts this quarter.
     E-mail is the best way to reach him!


Teaching Assistant:

Cam Buzard

Office: 160 South Mudd (x6962)

Office Hours: TBD, 160 S. Mudd

When offered: Fall quarter of 2018
         (Classes run Oct. 1st to Dec. 7th, Finals Dec. 12-14).

Where offered: TTh, 2:30-4 pm, 176 S. Mudd

This course discusses the fundamental aspects of atomic and molecular spectra that enable one to infer physical conditions in astronomical, planetary and terrestrial environments from the analysis of their electromagnetic radiation. Topics will include the structure and spectra of atoms, molecules and solids; transition probabilities; photoionization and recombination; collisional processes; gas-phase chemical reactions and isotopic fractionation. Each topic will be illustrated with applications in astronomy and planetary sciences, ranging from planetary atmospheres and dense interstellar clouds to the early universe.

Target audience: Beginning graduate students and advanced undergraduates in the Divisions of Geological & Planetary Sciences and Physics, Mathematics & Astronomy as well as other students throughout Caltech.

Grades will be based on problem sets, a mid-term take-home exam (one of the middle, slightly extended, problem sets) and a final exam. The final exam will consist of a written part, and a 15-20 minute talk on a subject of your choice connected to the course. If people are interested, there may be a possibility of doing some lab work to supplement the class.

Problem set due dates, etc., will be updated once class times are set.

Problem Set #1: Handed out 10/04/18; due 10/18/18.
Problem Set #2: Handed out 10/18/18; due 11/01/18.
Problem Set #3: Handed out 11/01/18; due 11/15/18.
Problem Set #4: Handed out 11/15/18; due 11/29/18.
Final Oral Presentations: 12/06/18 (paper due the following week, during finals).

Course Outline:



I. Hydrogen Atom
II. N-electron Atoms
III. Atoms and Radiation
IV. Photoionization and Recombination
V. Collisional Processes
VI. Applications


VII. Overview of Molecular Structure
VIII. Rotational Spectroscopy
IX. Vibrational Spectroscopy
X. Electronic Spectroscopy
XI. Molecular Processes
XII. Applications

Much of the lecture notes for the course are those developed in collaboration with Prof. Ewine F. van Dishoeck, the 2018 Kavli Laureate in Astrophysics. She, in turn, credits Profs. J. H. Black, now at the Chalmers University of Technology, and A. Dalgarno of Harvard University. The atomic and molecular spectroscopy sections are well established, but additional/new applications sections will be added over the course of the quarter. In particular, Prof. Blake needs to add applications from the Spitzer, Herschel, and ALMA observatories. Stay tuned, and please send along requests of items you would like to see covered!


Course Materials

Course Syllabus (PDF 64k)
List of Reading Materials to be Placed on Reserve
Notes about Lectures, Reading
Problem Sets

or go to Adobe website to get Acrobat Reader.