A comparison equation is set up and solved for the locking of an electronic angular momentum 1 = 1 to the molecular axis during a collision of two atoms. Two parameters which enter into the comparison equation characterize the strength and the abruptness of the locking. A solution found allows one to investigate the transition from loose locking to tight locking. A new definition of the locking distance is suggested. A method to calculate the slipping probability which describes the deviation of the locking event from its sudden limit is proposed. The idea of the locking of electronic angular momentum to the molecular axis of a diatom is basic to atomic and molecular physics. ' In the context of depolarizing collisions, it was used by Dashevskaya and Mokhova2q3 in connection with the collisional depolarization of atoms. These authors advocated the use of the sudden transformation of atomic wave functions into molecular ones at a distance called the 'matching ' radius, R,, and suggested two different criteria to determine R,. A similar idea was behind the 'orbital-the electronic angular momentum of one of the colliding atoms to the molecular axis. To be specific, we consider the collision of an atom in a P-state with a spherically symmetric atom. In this way, we find a condition when the notion of the locking distance, R,, exists, derive an equation which defines R, and calculate the so-called slipping probability which describes the deviation of the locking event from the sudden limit. following ' notion introduced by Rettner and Za~e. ~ The model was developed further by Hertel and co-worker~~-~ and Grosser'*9 who introduced the concept of the 'locking&apos
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