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Syllabus for

Academic year
RRY041 - The interstellar medium and star formation
Det interstellära mediet och stjärnbildning
Syllabus adopted 2019-02-14 by Head of Programme (or corresponding)
Owner: MPPHS
7,5 Credits
Grading: TH - Pass with distinction (5), Pass with credit (4), Pass (3), Fail
Education cycle: Second-cycle
Major subject: Electrical Engineering, Engineering Physics

Teaching language: English
Application code: 85129
Open for exchange students: Yes
Block schedule: C

Module   Credit distribution   Examination dates
Sp1 Sp2 Sp3 Sp4 Summer course No Sp
0115 Written and oral assignments 1,5c Grading: UG   1,5c    
0215 Examination 6,0c Grading: TH   6,0c   09 Oct 2020 am J

In programs

MPPHS PHYSICS, MSC PROGR, Year 1 (compulsory elective)


Jonathan Tan


General entry requirements for Master's level (second cycle)
Applicants enrolled in a programme at Chalmers where the course is included in the study programme are exempted from fulfilling the requirements above.

Specific entry requirements

English 6 (or by other approved means with the equivalent proficiency level)
Applicants enrolled in a programme at Chalmers where the course is included in the study programme are exempted from fulfilling the requirements above.

Course specific prerequisites

It is desired that the students will have done a basic introduction to astronomy. Students also need basic knowledge about electromagnetic waves and spectroscopy/quantum physics.


The aim of the course is to provide the students with a description of our current knowledge about the physics of the interstellar medium and the processes by which stars form.

Learning outcomes (after completion of the course the student should be able to)

- Describe observations of the interstellar medium in different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum
- Explain how physical concepts are used to understand the various forms of interstellar matter
- Describe the current theory for the formation of stars and some of its observational tests
- List the ISM recycling, depletion and destruction time scales.
- Calculate the ionization structure of and emission from an HII region.
- Calculate the idealized interaction between SN and ISM.
- Determine the average electron density and magnetic field in the Galaxy from pulsar observations.
- Describe the role of dust in the interstellar medium and calculate its effect on observations.
- Discuss the most important heating and cooling mechanisms of the different ISM phases.
- Use the virial theorem
- Discuss the effect of radiation pressure during star formation


The course covers the following items:

    Overview of interstellar matter across the electromagnetic spectrum
    Photoionized nebulae
    Nebular modelling, including computer models
    Multi-phase interstellar medium. Gas and dust content of the Galaxy
    Molecular clouds: physics of H2 and CO molecules, interstellar chemistry
    Initial conditions for the formation of stars
    Formation of stars: Protostellar collapse, formation of disks, outflows of protostars and young stellar objects


The course includes lectures and exercises.


The textbook for the course is Physics of the Interstellar and Intergalactic Medium by Bruce Draine (2011: Princeton University Press), ISBN-13 978-0691122144. The textbook is strongly recommended for purchase. It is available both in printed form and as an e-book. Additional lecture notes will be posted on the course website.

Examination including compulsory elements

The examination is in form of a written exam plus compulsory homework and an oral presentation.

Published: Mon 28 Nov 2016.