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Molecular Astrophysics: from theory to lab to observations

Holger Kreckel (MPIK) and Dmitry Semenov (MPIA)

Winter Semester 2021/22, Fridays 11:15, Philosophenweg 12, kleiner Hörsaal
Oct 22nd 2021 — Feb 11th 2022

This lecture is an introduction to molecular astrophysics.

The detection of molecules in space is at the forefront of observational astronomy, which also drives extensive laboratory and theoretical studies. New instruments like the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) examine the molecular composition of the Universe from Big Bang to present days. Our understanding of the formation and destruction of molecules in interstellar star- and planet-forming regions is interwoven with such questions as the origin of Earth’s water and the seeding of life by organic molecules.

In this lecture we will address molecules in a variety of extraterrestrial environments, ranging from the diffuse interstellar medium to planetary atmospheres. We will introduce basic spectroscopic properties of molecules and show how these are used to probe the underlying physics and kinematics. Furthermore, we will describe the major formation and destruction processes for molecules in space and the interplay between gas phase and surface reactions will be discussed, both from experimental and theoretical points of view.

A general knowledge of atomic physics and basic physical chemistry will be helpful for attending this course


1) Introduction: Molecules in Space
2) Molecular Properties and Spectroscopy                         
3) Observation: Different ways to detect Molecules        
4) Early Universe
5) Gas-phase chemical processes and the first molecules
6) Stellar nucleosynthesis and origin of elements             
7) Laboratory Astrophysics: Gas phase experiments
8) Diffuse interstellar medium
9) Dust evolution and surface chemistry
10) Laboratory astrophysics: dust and surface experiments
11) Dense interstellar medium
12) Protoplanetary disks                            
13) Planetary atmospheres, exoplanets,  water, life
14) Excursion MPIK  / MPIA