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Interstellar Medium

Course 2019-2020

Please note that this course description is preliminary. The final course description will be released in the Summer of 2019.

Admission requirements



The space between the stars is filled with matter, magnetic fields, and radiation. This course describes this ‘interstellar medium’ as an an integral part of galactic ‘ecosystems’. It provides an overview of the known constituents of the ISM (ionized, atomic, and molecular gas; dust; magnetic fields; cosmic rays; EM radiation), and the different environments in which these are encountered (the 2- and 3-phase models of the ISM) along with the observational diagnostics (atomic and molecular spectroscopy; spectral energy distributions). It discusses the physical processes that govern the interactions within the ISM and with stars (energy balance; shocks). And it highlights the relationships between the ISM and stars and their host galaxies (birth and death of stars; supernovae; nuclei of active galaxies).

Course objectives

The student will gain relevant background information and hands-on experience that will enable him/her to follow the current literature on the interstellar medium and to do research in this field.

Soft skills

In this course, students are not paticularly trained in behaviour-oriented skills.


See Astronomy master schedules

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures
  • Exercise classes

Assessment method

  • Written exam
  • Homework assignments

Active participation in the assignment classes is mandatory. The student can only participate in the written exam if all homework assignments have been handed in on time and an overall passing grade has been obtained for the homework. The final grade is based upon the written exam only.


Students should enroll on Blackboard before the first lecture. Blackboard will be used to communicate with students and to share lecture slides, homework assignments, and any extra materials. To have access, you need a student ULCN account.

Reading list

Physics of the Interstellar and Intergalactic Medium, Draine, ISBN 9780691122144 (paperback) or ISBN 9780691122137 (hardcover) (required)


Via uSis. More information about signing up for your classes can be found here. Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Prospective students website for information on how to apply.

Contact information

Lecturer: Prof.dr. P.P. (Paul) van der Werf
Assistant: to be announced