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ASTR 5110 (Atomic and Molecular Processes)
Fall 2017 (MWF: 9:00 am - 9:50 am)

Instructor: Prof Michael Shull
Atomic and Molecular Processes - Shull

Atomic and Molecular Processes: Fall 2017

Final Exam: Sunday Dec 17, 2017 (7:30-10:00 pm)

  Course Overview:

    This course is designed for first-year graduate students in astrophysics and planetary science, as well as interested physics students. It provides a survey of theory and applications of the processes that determine the physical characteristics of stars, planets, galaxies, quasars, and gas in the interplanetary, interstellar, and intergalactic medium. Students will be introduced to implications of physical processes and gain experience in order-of-magnitude estimation. The detailed syllabus for this course can be found here.

  Course Highlights:

    Introduction and Review of Applied Quantum Mechanics
    The Hydrogen Atom (structure, energy levels, spectra)
    Multi-electron spectroscopy of atoms and ions
    Photo-ionization, Collisional ionization, Radiative & Dielectronic Recombination
    Line Excitation, Radiative Cooling, Thermal Instability
    Radiative Transitions and Opacities
    Emission and Absorption Lines, Level populations
    Molecular Physics and Spectroscopy
    Equilibrium Statistical Mechanics
    Quantum Statistics (Fermi, Bose, photon gases; degenerate matter)


    I will give regular (weekly) homework sets, which count for 60% of the grade. The final exam is 20%, a final project (paper) will count 10%, and the quality and regularity of class participation will count for 10%. I expect students to have read relevant text material prior to class, and I will ask questions during class to probe your complete understanding. Students should try to attend all classes and participate fully. Please come to class prepared to discuss the lecture materials from your readings. Questioning a subject's assumptions and probing the understanding is critical to this course, which reviews many aspects of undergraduate physics training in an applied format. My probing may seem a bit intrusive at first, but after a few classes students should get over their anxiety. You need not know the "right answer" but will learn how to think your way to the answer. Students will be encouraged to engage one another as part of the critical thinking practiced by professionals.

  Office Hours, Consultation:

    I also encourage students to come see me regularly, either after class or in my office. It's best to make an appointment, since with professional committees and travel, some of my schedule is not under my control. I am generally around between 9 am and 6:00 pm, except for colloquia, seminars, and other commitments. I will be out of town Oct 14-17 and Oct 21-24.

  Major Goals of the Course:

    The primary reason for this course is to understand "Spectrum Formation in Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences" with a broad view of all types of electromagnetic radiation. New ground-based telescopes and space observatories (Hubble, Chandra, Spitzer, Herschel, ALMA, JWST) will provide new diagnostics in the far-infrared, sub-mm, and X-ray, as well as the traditional optical, ultraviolet, radio, and near-infrared. We will therefore cover such basic physical topics as Applied Quantum Mechanics; Radiative, Thermal, & Ionization Processes; Atomic and Molecular Spectroscopy; Radiative Transfer; and Statistical Mechanics. In your third semester (fall 2018) the continuation of this course (ASTR 5120) covers dynamics, transport and kinetic theory, and radiative transfer. Some of this material will be introduced this term, in ASTR 5110, if time permits.

  Textbooks and Reading Materials:

    Physics of the Interstellar and Intergalactic Medium (Draine)
    Statistical Mechanics (Pathria and Beale)- optional
    Some of my copied course notes (proto-text)