2003 Fall Astronomy 403:

Astrophysics of the Insterstellar Medium (3 units)

Instructor Information

Click to go directly to: Course Details, Course Description, Grading Policies, Schedules (PrintVersion), Useful Links

Course Details:

Prerequisites: MATH 216, and prior or concurrent enrollment in PHYSICS 240 (or 260).

Course Schedule

Primary Textbook:

"The Physics of the Interstellar Medium (2nd edition)" by J.E. Dyson and D.A. Williams

(Copies should be available at Ulrich's and online bookstores; one copy has been placed on reserve at the Shapiro Science Library)

Recommended Readings:

Other potentially useful texts will be placed on reserve at the Shapiro Science Library. These include:

Course Description:

This course examines the various types of gaseous components and their interaction with stars through the processes of star formation, stellar mass loss, photoionization of gas by hot stars, and supernova explosions. The interstellar medium (the gas between stars) comprises a wide variety of material that interacts closely, and often violently, with individual stars and the host galaxy. First, the underlying atomic and molecular physics is developed and then we examine how gas is ionized by hot stars and by supernova remnants. We analyze the content of the cold pervasive atomic and molecular gas in the galaxy, how it often lies in spiral arms, and why giant molecular clouds are the most active sites of star formation. Finally, recent discoveries are highlighted, such as the presence of galactic "cirrus" as seen from the dust distribution.

Grading Policies:

Grades in this course will be based on several components. There will be regular homework assignments, every one or two weeks, covering the lectures and assigned reading (generally from the course textbook, but also including outside sources).   There will be one conventional hour-long exam given during the semester (a midterm) plus a 2-hour final exam; these exams will account for 45% of your final grade. Lastly, participation in classroom discussions will be an important component of your grade as well. The final grading will be done according to the following table:

Assignment Percentage
Homework 40%
Final Exam 30%
Midterm Exam 15%
Participation 15%

Homework Policies:

Late homework is accepted, but suffers a 2-letter-grade penalty for each day late. While you may work in groups, each problem set should reflect your own understanding and be in your own words. Credit will not be given for answers that do not have adequate derivation (i.e., show your work).

Class Schedule for AY403: Last updated 2003Oct22 (schedule subject to change)

Date Readings Topics Homework
Wed Sep 3 D&W Ch.1 Introduction
Fri Sep 5 Ch. 2 How we obtain information on the interstellar medium

(Review of some basic physics: thermodynamics, 2-level atom, spectral line formation, radiative transfer, continuum radiation)

Mon Sep 8
Wed Sep 10
Fri Sep 12
Mon Sep 15
Wed Sep 17 Ch. 3 Microscopic processes (collisional processes, heating, cooling, molecule formation) #1 due
Fri Sep 19
Mon Sep 22
Wed Sep 24 References:Wolfire article, Dickey/Lockman 1990 Neutral HI regions (heating, cooling, galactic distribution); Multi-phase (neutral) ISM #2 due
Fri Sep 26
Mon Sep 29
Wed Oct 1 Ch. 4 Dust (optical properties, formation, destruction, composition) #3 due
Fri Oct 3
Mon Oct 6
Wed Oct 8 Ch. 5 Radiatively-excited (HII) regions (ionization, stromgen sphere, radio emission, effect of dust/metals) #4 due
Fri Oct 10
Mon Oct 13 No Class (Fall Break)
Wed Oct 15 (HII regions continued)
Fri Oct 17
Mon Oct 20 Ch. 6 Introduction to fluid mechanics (hydrodynamics, Euler equations, shocks, magneto-hydrodynamics) #5 due
Wed Oct 22
Fri Oct 24
Mon Oct 27 In-class review for Midterm
Wed Oct 29 Midterm Exam (tentative schedule)
Fri Oct 31 Ch 6. (continued) (continued)
Mon Nov 3 Ch. 7 Gas dynamics (photo-ionized nebula, stellar winds, supernovae, energy budget of ISM)
Wed Nov 5 #6 due
Fri Nov 7
Mon Nov 10
Wed Nov 12 outside reading (TBD) Molecular gas/clouds (H2, CO, astrochemistry, observations) #7 due
Fri Nov 14
Mon Nov 17
Wed Nov 19 Ch. 8 Star formation (gravitational collapse, virial theorem, magnetic fields, rotation, observations)
Fri Nov 21
Mon Nov 24
Wed Nov 26 Guest Lecture
Fri Nov 28 No Class (Thanksgiving)
Mon Dec 1 (star formation continued)
Wed Dec 3 Ferriere 2001 Overview of Galactic ISM (Putting it all together, ISM in pictures, and Review Session for Final Exam #8 due
Fri Dec 5
Mon Dec 8
Wed Dec 10 Class Presentations (Last day of Class) #9 due

Printable Version of Schedule

Useful Links:

The following links may be useful at various points during the class. Please send me additional links you have found useful, and I will include these for your classmates' benefit.

Interstellar Medium: