• Offered by Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • ANU College ANU Joint Colleges of Science
  • Course subject Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Areas of interest Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Academic career Undergraduate
  • Course convener
    • Dr Ralph Sutherland
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course ASTR8007
  • Offered in Second Semester 2017
    See Future Offerings

The course coversthe following topics: The diffuse universe; line emission processes; collisional excitation; line transfer effects; collision ionization equilibrium; cooling plasmas; interstellar shocks; theory of photoionised regions; parameters of photoionised regions and interstellar dust.

Students complete two assignments and a major project on the interstellar medium.  The major project is presented as a written report and may be submitted to an astrophysical journal as a publication if the student chooses to prepare their report for a journal after course completion.  The student presents their project to the class as an oral 20 minute (Power point style) presentation.


Learning Outcomes

On satisfying the requirements of this course, students will

  1. Understand the processes by which continuum and line radiation is produced in the interstellar medium.
  2. Understand how collisional excitation and photoionization determine the populations of ions in their different energy levels.
  3. Understand the formation of the emission spectrum in photoionised regions including HII regions, planetary nebulae and active galactic nuclei; estimation of the parameters of such regions.
  4. Understand the formation of shocks in the interstellar medium and the resultant spectra.
  5. Understand the physics of the cooling function for astrophysical plasma and its important role in different contexts.
  6. Understand the physics of dust in the interstellar medium and its effect on the emitted spectrum.

Indicative Assessment

2 x assignments each worth 25%. LO 1-6.

Major project: 50% LO 1-6.

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


4 hours per week of lectures and tutorials; 6 hours per week spent on assignments and the major project.

Requisite and Incompatibility

Incompatible with ASTR8007

You will need to contact the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics to request a permission code to enrol in this course.

Prescribed Texts

Astrophysics of the Diffuse Universe by M.A. Dopita and R.S. Sutherland. Springer, 2003, ISBN 3-540-43362-7 This may be purchased in book form. Alternatively an electronic version of this will be made available at a cost of $20.

Assumed Knowledge

Students should have completed PHYS2013 – Quantum Mechanics and PHYS2016 – Electromagnetism, or their equivalents.


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Band 2
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2017 $3444
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2017 $4590
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings and Dates

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only

Second Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery
9272 24 Jul 2017 31 Jul 2017 31 Aug 2017 27 Oct 2017 In Person

Responsible Officer: Registrar, Student Administration / Page Contact: Website Administrator / Frequently Asked Questions