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The current report covers the period from the second half of 2011 to late 2014. It is divided into three areas covering rotational, vibrational, and electronic spectroscopy. A signifcant amount of experimental and theoretical work has been accomplished over the past three years, leading to the development and expansion of a number of databases whose links are provided below. Two notable publications have appeared recently: An issue of The Journal of Physical Chemistry A in 2013 honoring the many contributions of Takeshi Oka (J. Phys. Chem. A, 117, pp. 9305-10143); and IAU Symposium 297 on Diffuse Interstellar Bands (Cami & Cox 2014). A number of the relevant papers from these volumes are cited in what follows. Related research on collisions, reactions on grain surfaces, and astrochemistry are not included here.
The current report covers the period from the second half of 2003 to the first half of 2011, bringing the Working Group's efforts up to date, and is divided into three main sections covering rotational, vibrational, and electronic spectroscopy. Rather than being exhaustive, space limitations only allow us to highlight a representative sample of work on molecular spectra. Related research on collisions, reactions on grain surfaces, and astrochemistry appear in the report by another Working Group. These also recount recent conferences and workshops on molecular astrophysics.
The science of extra-solar planets is one of the most rapidly changing areas of astrophysics and since 1995 the number of planets known has increased by almost two orders of magnitude. A combination of ground-based surveys and dedicated space missions has resulted in 560-plus planets being detected, and over 1200 that await confirmation. NASA's Kepler mission has opened up the possibility of discovering Earth-like planets in the habitable zone around some of the 100,000 stars it is surveying during its 3 to 4-year lifetime. The new ESA's Gaia mission is expected to discover thousands of new planets around stars within 200 parsecs of the Sun. The key challenge now is moving on from discovery, important though that remains, to characterisation: what are these planets actually like, and why are they as they are?
In the past ten years, we have learned how to obtain the first spectra of exoplanets using transit transmission and emission spectroscopy. With the high stability of Spitzer, Hubble, and large ground-based telescopes the spectra of bright close-in massive planets can be obtained and species like water vapour, methane, carbon monoxide and dioxide have been detected. With transit science came the first tangible remote sensing of these planetary bodies and so one can start to extrapolate from what has been learnt from Solar System probes to what one might plan to learn about their faraway siblings. As we learn more about the atmospheres, surfaces and near-surfaces of these remote bodies, we will begin to build up a clearer picture of their construction, history and suitability for life.
The Exoplanet Characterisation Observatory, EChO, will be the first dedicated mission to investigate the physics and chemistry of Exoplanetary Atmospheres. By characterising spectroscopically more bodies in different environments we will take detailed planetology out of the Solar System and into the Galaxy as a whole.
EChO has now been selected by the European Space Agency to be assessed as one of four M3 mission candidates.
This contribution focuses on the study of ‘cool’ sources with surface temperatures in the range of about 500-4000 K. In this temperature range spectra are dominated by strong molecular absorption and the tools of modern chemical physics can be applied to compute the molecular opacities needed to simulate the observed spectral energy distributions. (See Bernath (2005) for an introduction to molecular spectroscopy including line intensities and Bernath (2009) for a recent astronomical review article.)
The recent laboratory spectroscopy of a number of astrophysically important molecules are discussed. Examples include small molecules such as CrH, HF, FeF, SiS, CH4, H20, SiO and TiO as well as large molecules such as COO and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Many of these examples illustrate the utility of infrared and far infrared emission spectroscopy. The close coupling of laboratory spectroscopy and molecular astronomy has led to advances in both areas.
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