Physics 610: Interstellar Matter
Spring 2010

Andrew Baker
Serin 309
Phone: 732-445-5500 x2544
Email: ajbaker[at]
Office hours: Monday 2:00-3:30 (or by appointment)

TTh4 (1:40-3:00) in ARC110, except where boldfaced below

The only required textbook is The Physics and Chemistry of the Interstellar Medium by Xander Tielens, copies of which should be available in the bookstore. I have also ordered copies of Radiative Processes in Astrophysics by George Rybicki and Alan Lightman, which I strongly encourage you to purchase, as it will be useful in this course as well as Physics 612 next year.
I will also draw material as needed from Osterbrock & Ferland, Astrophysics of Gaseous Nebulae and Active Galactic Nuclei and from Spitzer, Physical Processes in the Interstellar Medium; these (together with Rybicki & Lightman) are or soon will be 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 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 Jan 19 chemical composition of the ISM ---  
2 Jan 21 radiative transfer RL ch 1  
3 Jan 26 bremsstrahlung RL ch 5 PS1
4 Jan 28 synchrotron emission RL ch 6  
5 Feb 2 line emission; HI T ch 2 PS2
6 Feb 4 HII regions T ch 7  
7 Feb 9 atomic structure; recombination lines RL ch 9 & 10 PS3
8 Feb 11 collisional excitation T ch 2  
9 Feb 16 HeII regions T ch 7 PS4
10 Feb 18 nebular emission-line diagnostics T ch 7  
11 Feb 19 thermal equilibrium in ionized gas T ch 2, 3, & 7  
12 Feb 23 thermal equilibrium in neutral gas; phases of the ISM T ch 2, 3, & 8 PS5
  Feb 24 Mark Devlin, University of Pennsylvania:    
    Where Did Half the Starlight in the Universe Go?    
13 Feb 25 interstellar dust (1) T ch 5  
14 Mar 3 interstellar dust (2) T ch 5 PS6
15 Mar 4 interstellar dust (3) + molecular bonding T ch 5; RL ch 11  
16 Mar 11 molecular spectroscopy RL ch 11 mid-term paper
17 Mar 23 molecular clouds T ch 10 PS7 [short]
18 Mar 25 PDRs and molecular chemistry T ch 4, 6, & 9  
19 Mar 30 interstellar magnetic fields S ch 10 & 11 PS8
20 Apr 1 formation of individual stars S ch 13  
  Apr 2 Sheila Kannappan, University of North Carolina    
21 Apr 6 interstellar shocks T ch 11 PS9
22 Apr 8 interstellar turbulence ---  
23 Apr 13 stellar winds and supernova blast waves T ch 12 PS10
24 Apr 15 the three-phase model of the ISM T ch 8  
25 Apr 20 star formation on galaxy scales --- PS11
26 Apr 22 feedback on galaxy scales ---  
27 Apr 27 student choice: TBD --- PS12
28 Apr 29 student choice: TBD ---  

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

Problem sets will be handed out (almost) every Tuesday and handed in at class the following Tuesday. 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 in advance; they will not cover the topics of the "student choice" lectures.

Other items

Last updated February 15, 2010.