The Interstellar Medium and Formation of Stars

Course content

The physics of the interstellar medium plays an important role in some of the most active topics of current research – from the evolution of galaxies to the formation of stars and planets in our neighborhood. This course focuses on the link between the interstellar medium and formation of stars and planets. Particular emphasis will be put on the importance of the tools for studying these processes – theoretically / computationally as well as observationally.


M.Sc. Programme in Physics

Learning outcome

Present insight into the physics behind the temperature and density distributions of the different phases of the interstellar medium. Account for the key physical phenomenon such as shocks and PDRs as well as describe the underlying physical mechanisms dictating the structure and evolution of dense clouds. Demonstrate knowledge about the physics behind of the collapse of dense cores – including the importance and effects of thermal support, rotation, magnetic fields and turbulence. Describe the overall evolution of young stars including time-scales and key events such as the launching of jets and outflows and formation and evolution of protoplanetary disks. Account for the overall hypotheses regarding the processes leading to the formation of planets. For all of the above: show insight into the constraints obtainable from detailed observations as well as large numerical simulations.

The course follows the progression of the interstellar medium from the largest scales to planet forming regions. The first part of the course deals with the physics of the diffuse interstellar medium, and why it is so complex. An important issue is to understand the arguments for the existence of various phases with different densities. The second part is on aspects of the star formation itself and why the formation of Solar-type stars is interesting. The physical concepts will be demonstrated by selected exercises on star formation in nearby star forming molecular clouds: how is the collapse, taking place, how are protostars identified, how may their properties be derived?

This course will provide the students with a competent background for further studies within this research field, e.g. an M.Sc. project

Lectures and exercises

The Formation of Stars, Steven W. Stahler, Francesco Palla, ISBN 3-527-40559-3.Wiley-VCH January 2005 (mandatory)

Selected recent research papers (web and/or handout material)

The content corresponding to the bachelor courses in astronomy is required.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 25 min
Without preparation time
Without aids
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
More internal examiners
Criteria for exam assessment

Se Skills.

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 42
  • Practical exercises
  • 14
  • Project work
  • 42
  • Theory exercises
  • 14
  • Guidance
  • 7
  • Exam
  • 0,5
  • Preparation
  • 86,5
  • English
  • 206,0