Physics 610: Interstellar Matter
Fall 2017

Andrew Baker
Serin W309
Phone: 848-445-8887
Email: ajbaker[at]
Office hours: TBD

TTh5 (3:20-4:40) in ARC 203, except where boldfaced below

The only required textbook is Physics of the Interstellar and Intergalactic Medium by Bruce Draine, copies of which should be available in the bookstore.

Here's the official course catalog listing:
"Structure of the interstellar medium: its molecular, neutral atomic, and plasma phases. Radiative transfer, dust, particle acceleration, magnetic Fields, and cosmic rays. Effects of supernovae, shock fronts, and star formation."

I plan to broaden this list of topics to include the intergalactic medium; in general, I will try to highlight subjects that are important to areas of current research in extragalactic astrophysics and cosmology (e.g., galaxy formation, the enrichment of the intergalactic medium, and the reionization of the universe).

Both the sequence of lectures and the assignment due dates are preliminary at this point; I will update them as needed during the course of the semester. The last two lectures are tentatively reserved for ISM-related topics to be chosen sometime after Thanksgiving by the students who are officially enrolled in the course. These will give you an opportunity to make me sweat, thus exacting revenge for a semester's worth of problem sets.

I will include in the schedule the dates of any local talks that are relevant to the subject matter of this course. Attendance is encouraged but not required!

1 Sep 5      
2 Sep 7      
3 Sep 8      
4 Sep 21     PS1
5 Sep 22      
6 Sep 26      
7 Sep 28     PS2
8 Sep 29      
9 Oct 3      
10 Oct 10     PS3
11 Oct 12      
12 Oct 13      
13 Oct 19     PS4
14 Oct 20      
15 Oct 24      
16 Oct 31     PS5
17 Nov 2      
18 Nov 3      
19 Nov 7     PS6
20 Nov 9      
21 Nov 10      
22 Nov 14     PS7
23 Nov 16      
24 Nov 28     observing proposal
25 Dec 5     PS8
26 Dec 7      
27 Dec 8      
28 Dec 12     PS9

Your course grade will be based on a weighted combination of three elements:

Problem sets will include three types of exercises: straightforward examples or extensions of material discussed in lecture; more involved applications to areas of current research (see above), which may encompass some computational work; and true/false questions that simulate the challenge of refereeing a journal paper.

The observing proposal will be for a telescope of your choice and on a topic of your choice, although it should not be identical to a research project or a qualifier paper you are already working on. Students who are pursuing research in astronomy may find their proposals can be revised and submitted for real at the relevant proposal deadlines. For any student who is not pursuing research in astronomy, I will provide a set of literature papers that can serve as a starting point for building up the requisite background knowledge.

The final exam will be closed-book and closed-note. The questions on the exam will be drawn from a list that I will provide you with in advance; they will not cover the topics of the "student choice" lecture.

Other items

Last updated September 26, 2017.