Physics 610: Interstellar Matter
Spring 2007

Andrew Baker
Serin 309
Phone: 732-445-2544
Email: ajbaker[at]
Office hours: Friday 1:00-2:30 (or by appointment)

MW4 (1:40-3:00) in SEC212, except where boldfaced below

Tielens, The Physics and Chemistry of the Interstellar Medium
I will also draw material as needed from Osterbrock & Ferland, Astrophysics of Gaseous Nebulae and Active Galactic Nuclei, from Rybicki & Lightman, Radiative Processes in Astrophysics, and from Spitzer, Physical Processes in the Interstellar Medium, all of which are on reserve in the physics library.

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 spring break 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 have included in the schedule the dates of several local talks that are relevant to the subject matter of this course. Attendance is encouraged but not required!

1 Jan 17 chemical composition of the ISM ---  
2 Jan 22 radiative transfer RL ch 1  
3 Jan 24 bremsstrahlung RL ch 5  
  Jan 24 Jim Truran, University of Chicago:
Explosions, Nucleosynthesis, and Cosmic Chemical Evolution
  Jan 26 Jason Glenn, University of Colorado:
Probing the Growth of Massive Galaxies at High Redshifts with Sub/millimeter Observations
4 Jan 29 synchrotron emission RL ch 6 PS1
5 Jan 31 line emission; HI T ch 2  
6 Feb 5 HII regions T ch 7  
7 Feb 7 atomic structure; recombination lines RL ch 9 & 10  
8 Feb 12 collisional excitation T ch 2 PS2
9 Feb 14 HeII regions T ch 7  
  Feb 16 Anatoly Spitkovsky, Princeton University:
How Collisionless Shocks Work (And How They Don't)
10 Feb 19 nebular emission-line diagnostics T ch 7 PS3
    Matthew Klimek, Rutgers University:
An Investigation of Newly-Discovered SNRs in the LMC
11 Feb 21 thermal equilibrium in ionized gas T ch 2, 3, & 7  
12 Feb 26 thermal equilibrium in neutral gas; phases of the ISM T ch 2, 3, & 8 PS4
13 Feb 28 interstellar dust (1) T ch 5  
  Mar 3 Reinhard Genzel, MPE Garching:
Black Holes in Galaxies
14 Mar 5 interstellar dust (2) T ch 5  
15 Mar 9 interstellar dust (3) + molecular bonding T ch 5; RL ch 11 mid-term paper
16 Mar 19 molecular spectroscopy RL ch 11  
17 Mar 21 molecular clouds T ch 10  
18 Mar 26 PDRs and molecular chemistry T ch 4, 6, & 9 PS5
19 Mar 28 interstellar magnetic fields S ch 10 & 11  
  Mar 30 Alice Shapley, Princeton University:
The Seeds of the Morphology-Density Relation at z~2?
20 Apr 2 formation of individual stars S ch 13 PS6
21 Apr 4 interstellar shocks T ch 11  
22 Apr 6 interstellar turbulence ---  
23 Apr 9 stellar winds and supernova blast waves T ch 12  
24 Apr 11 the three-phase model of the ISM T ch 8 PS7
25 Apr 13 star formation on galaxy scales ---  
26 Apr 23 feedback on galaxy scales --- PS8
27 Apr 25 student choice: masers ---  
28 Apr 30 student choice: the intergalactic medium --- PS9

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

Problem sets will be handed out (almost) every Monday and handed in at class the following Monday. They 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); and true/false questions that simulate the challenge of refereeing a journal paper.

The mid-term paper will be a ~5pp review of the contents of a particular set of literature papers and references therein (and/or citations thereof) that address a single ISM-related topic. I will provide sets of papers for several such topics, although if none of these look sufficiently interesting then you may suggest your own theme. This should be a critical review, showing that you have thought about what you've read and are not merely repeating it, and written at a level that your classmates could understand.

The final exam will be closed-book and closed-note. The questions on the exam will be drawn from (a) the problem sets, and (b) an additional list that I will provide you with well in advance.

Other items

Last updated April 3, 2007.