Rotational spectrum of the molecular ion NH+ as a probe for α and me/mp variation

K. Beloy*, M. G. Kozlov, A. Borschevsky, Andreas Hauser, V. V. Flambaum, P. Schwerdtfeger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We identify the molecular ion NH+ as a potential candidate for probing variations in the fine-structure constant α and electron-to-proton mass ratio μ. NH+ has an anomalously low-lying excited 4Σ- state, being only a few hundred cm-1 above the ground 2Π state. Being a light molecule, this proximity is such that rotational levels of the respective states are highly intermixed for low angular momenta. We find that several low-frequency transitions within the collective rotational spectrum experience enhanced sensitivity to α and μ variation. This is attributable to the close proximity of the 2Π and 4Σ- states, as well as the ensuing strong spin-orbit coupling between them. Suggestions that NH+ may exist in interstellar space and recent predictions that trapped-ion precision spectroscopy will be adaptable to molecular ions make NH+ a promising system for future astrophysical and laboratory studies of α and μ variation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number062514
JournalPhysical Review A
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics

Fields of Expertise

  • Advanced Materials Science


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