2023-2024 / SPAT0008-1

Interstellar medium


30h Th, 10h Pr

Number of credits

 Master in space sciences (120 ECTS)4 crédits 


Michaël De Becker, Valérie Van Grootel


Michaël De Becker

Language(s) of instruction

English language

Organisation and examination

Teaching in the first semester, review in January


Schedule online

Units courses prerequisite and corequisite

Prerequisite or corequisite units are presented within each program

Learning unit contents

The course proceeds first with a preamble leading to a global view of the interstellar medium. The introduction allows students from the beginning to identify the main components of the interstellar medium, its various phases and the connections between them. The main guidelines to explore the content of the course are about the follow-up of matter in various forms and that of energy that feeds interstellar physical processes.

More specific topics will then be addressed following a more detailed approach. In particular, the topics that will be addressed are:

  • shock physics (fundamental and advanced aspects)
  • the physics of sypernova remnants
  • interstellar dust (physical aspects)
  • nebulae driven by stellar winds and stellar radiation
  • the formation of stars and planetary systems from interstellar clouds

Learning outcomes of the learning unit

The outcomes of this course consist in:

  • acquiring an overview of the interstellar medium
  • developing a scientific culture complementary with that provided by other teaching activities of the Master in Space Sciences
  • being able to establish a clear connection between the various components of the interstellar medium
  • getting familiar with the various aspects of the physics of the interstellar medium
  • understanding how the components of the interstellar medium evolve and participate in the global physics of the galaxy
  • being able to understand, at least in part, most of the scientific literature on the topics addressed in the course
  • identifying the connections between the interstellar medium and several other topics addressed in the framework of the Master in Space Sciences

Prerequisite knowledge and skills

No particluar prerequisite beside the conditions for admission to the Master in Space Sciences.

Planned learning activities and teaching methods

The theoretical part is organized in lectures illustrated by detailed lecture notes and by slideshows commented by the lecturers. Learning supports in English are made available to students via the eCampus platform. The practical part consists in exercises illustrating the theory.

Mode of delivery (face to face, distance learning, hybrid learning)

Face-to-face course

Additional information:

Face-to-face course

Additional information:

The course consists in 40 hours in total, including both theoretical aspects and practical activities in the form of exercises.

Recommended or required readings

Lecture notes written in english including the main content of the course are provided to the students. These notes constitute the mandatory support to prepare for the exam.

Exam(s) in session

Any session

- In-person

oral exam

Additional information:

Exam(s) in session

Any session

- In-person

oral exam

Additional information:

The oral exam consists in two parts:


1. The presentation of a topic of the course selected by the student. This presentation is organized as a simple discussion lead by the student in the presence of the teachers. No slideshow is required.


2. The answer to a question sheet about the content of the course. The student picks two sheets, and chooses the one that will be the subject of this second part of the exam. The student benefits of a preparation time of a few minutes before presenting the answers to the teachers.


Work placement(s)

Not applicable.

Organisational remarks and main changes to the course

Lectures are organized according to the planning of the Master in Space Sciences communicated to students. Minor changes with respect to the initial schedule can exceptionally occur, upon agreement between the students and the teachers.



  • Some aspects of the course are complementary with the course "SPAT0020 Astrochemistry". It is however not necessary to attend one of them to be able to follow the other.
  • There is some added-value in following this course in complementarity with "SPAT0069 Radio astrophysics", even though these two courses can be seen as independent.


Michaël De Becker
Phone: 04/3669717
E-mail: Michael.DeBecker@uliege.be
Office: Institut d'Astrophysique et Géophysique, Building B5c, 1st floor, office 1/8
Valérie Van Grootel
Phone: 04/3669730
E-mail: Valerie.Vangrootel@uliege.be
Office: Institut d'Astrophysique et Géophysique, Building B5c, 1st floor, office 1/13

Association of one or more MOOCs