• Class Number 4517
  • Term Code 2930
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Dr Brent Groves
    • Dr Brent Groves
    • Dr Elisabete Lima da Cunha
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 25/02/2019
  • Class End Date 31/05/2019
  • Census Date 31/03/2019
  • Last Date to Enrol 04/03/2019
SELT Survey Results

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

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

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.

Required Resources

The course is based predominantly on the textbook: "Astrophysics of the Diffuse Universe" by M. Dopita and R. Sutherland. PDFs of this book can be obtained from the convenor.

We also recommend the text book "Physics of the Interstellar and Intergalactic Medium" by B. Draine

Staff Feedback

Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:

  • Assignments will be returned during the course to give direct feedback on understanding
  • Example questions will be discussed in tutorials to help understanding
  • Discussions are strongly encouraged to give direct feedback in the form of positive responses
  • Essays will be examined exactly the same way as journal articles, with direct feedback on content, writing style, presentation and understanding level
  • Oral presentation will have direct feedback after the presentation (and with practice presentations if wished) on content, style, clarity and general presentation skills.

Student Feedback

ANU is committed to the demonstration of educational excellence and regularly seeks feedback from students. Students are encouraged to offer feedback directly to their Course Convener or through their College and Course representatives (if applicable). The feedback given in these surveys is anonymous and provides the Colleges, University Education Committee and Academic Board with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement. The Surveys and Evaluation website provides more information on student surveys at ANU and reports on the feedback provided on ANU courses.

Other Information

Where an assignment is formed of a number of activities, the date range indicates the due date for the first component and the return date of the final component. Further information is provided in the assessment section of the class summary, and details are provided on the course wattle site.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 This course will be presented in 20 Modules covering the diffuse matter in the Universe. These topics will be: Phases of the ISM Atomics structure and Line emission Collisional- and photo-ionisation Interstellar shocks Photoionised Regions & Sources Turbulence Interstellar Dust Interstellar Molecules Full details and course notes can be found on Wattle. The assessment will be in the form of: two assignments, a written essay covering a research project on a topic of the diffuse matter in the universe, and an oral presentation of this research project. Attendance will also contribute to the final mark.

Tutorial Registration

Tutorial registration will occur during classes

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Return of assessment Learning Outcomes
Participation and performance in lectures and tutorials 10 % 25/02/2019 07/06/2019 1,2,3,4,5,6
Assignments 40 % 07/04/2019 07/06/2019 1,2,3,4,5,6
Research Project - Essay 25 % 24/05/2019 07/06/2019 1,2,3,4,5,6
Research Project - Oral Presentation 25 % 24/05/2019 07/06/2019 1,2,3,4,5,6

* If the Due Date and Return of Assessment date are blank, see the Assessment Tab for specific Assessment Task details


ANU has educational policies, procedures and guidelines, which are designed to ensure that staff and students are aware of the University’s academic standards, and implement them. Students are expected to have read the Academic Misconduct Rule before the commencement of their course. Other key policies and guidelines include:

Assessment Requirements

The ANU is using 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. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website. Students may choose not to submit assessment items through Turnitin. In this instance you will be required to submit, alongside the assessment item itself, hard copies of all references included in the assessment item.

Moderation of Assessment

Marks that are allocated during Semester are to be considered provisional until formalised by the College examiners meeting at the end of each Semester. If appropriate, some moderation of marks might be applied prior to final results being released.


Attendance forms a key part of the assessment, and all students are encouraged to be active participants in the classes, with questions on the diffuse matter in the universe.


There are no examinations as part of this course.

Assessment Task 1

Value: 10 %
Due Date: 25/02/2019
Return of Assessment: 07/06/2019
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5,6

Participation and performance in lectures and tutorials

Students will be assessed on participation and active discussion on the topics explored in this course. Students are strongly encouraged to attend all face-to-face components of the course (lectures and tutorials).

Assessment Task 2

Value: 40 %
Due Date: 07/04/2019
Return of Assessment: 07/06/2019
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5,6


There are two assignments (20% each) for this course, encompassing the first half and second half of the topics respectively. These assignments are to encourage students to take the topics further and actively determine the importance of line emission and the physics behind it in determining ISM properties. The assignments represent real research undertaken by astronomers.

The date range for these tasks indicates the due date for the first assignment, and the return date for the last assignment. The second assignment is expected to be due at the start of May. It is intended that the assignments will be returned within 2 weeks after submission. Further details can be found on the Course Wattle site.

Assessment Task 3

Value: 25 %
Due Date: 24/05/2019
Return of Assessment: 07/06/2019
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5,6

Research Project - Essay

Students are to undertake a research project, where they explore the literature on a diffuse matter topic of interest. They are then required to write a well-referenced report on this topic in the style of a journal article. The assessment will be based on: research, understanding of the topic, writing style and presentation. Presentation of research in a journal article is a key aspect of astronomical research (& academia in general), which is what this assessment hopes to encourage. Examples of previous essays are available on request.

Assessment Task 4

Value: 25 %
Due Date: 24/05/2019
Return of Assessment: 07/06/2019
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5,6

Research Project - Oral Presentation

Students are to undertake a research project, where they explore the literature on a diffuse matter topic of interest. They are then required to give an oral presentation on this topic in the style of a seminar using slides to demonstrate key points and figures of their research (such as using power point). Presentation of research in a seminar or conference a key aspect of astronomical research (& academia in general), which is what this assessment hopes to encourage.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of our culture as a community of scholars. At its heart, academic integrity is about behaving ethically. This means that all members of the community commit to honest and responsible scholarly practice and to upholding these values with respect and fairness. The Australian National University commits to embedding the values of academic integrity in our teaching and learning. We ensure that all members of our community understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. The ANU expects staff and students to uphold high standards of academic integrity and act ethically and honestly, to ensure the quality and value of the qualification that you will graduate with. The University has policies and procedures in place to promote academic integrity and manage academic misconduct. Visit the following Academic honesty & plagiarism website for more information about academic integrity and what the ANU considers academic misconduct. The ANU offers a number of services to assist students with their assignments, examinations, and other learning activities. The Academic Skills and Learning Centre offers a number of workshops and seminars that you may find useful for your studies.

Online Submission

You will be required to electronically sign a declaration as part of the submission of your assignment. Please keep a copy of the assignment for your records. Unless an exemption has been approved by the Associate Dean (Education) as submission must be through Turnitin.

Hardcopy Submission

For some forms of assessment (hand written assignments, art works, laboratory notes, etc.) hard copy submission is appropriate when approved by the Associate Dean (Education). Hard copy submissions must utilise the Assignment Cover Sheet. Please keep a copy of tasks completed for your records.

Late Submission

Late submission of assessment tasks without an extension are penalised at the rate of 5% of the possible marks available per working day or part thereof. Late submission of assessment tasks is not accepted after 10 working days after the due date, or on or after the date specified in the course outline for the return of the assessment item. Late submission is not accepted for take-home examinations.

Referencing Requirements

Accepted academic practice for referencing sources that you use in presentations can be found via the links on the Wattle site, under the file named “ANU and College Policies, Program Information, Student Support Services and Assessment”. Alternatively, you can seek help through the Students Learning Development website.

Returning Assignments

While hardcopy submission is allowed of assignments and essays, online submission (such as a PDF) is preferred, and with some assignment questions (such on modelling photoionised regions) electronic submission will be required.

Extensions and Penalties

Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure. The Course Convener may grant extensions for assessment pieces that are not examinations or take-home examinations. If you need an extension, you must request an extension in writing on or before the due date. If you have documented and appropriate medical evidence that demonstrates you were not able to request an extension on or before the due date, you may be able to request it after the due date.

Privacy Notice

The ANU has made a number of third party, online, databases available for students to use. Use of each online database is conditional on student end users first agreeing to the database licensor’s terms of service and/or privacy policy. Students should read these carefully. In some cases student end users will be required to register an account with the database licensor and submit personal information, including their: first name; last name; ANU email address; and other information.
In cases where student end users are asked to submit ‘content’ to a database, such as an assignment or short answers, the database licensor may only use the student’s ‘content’ in accordance with the terms of service – including any (copyright) licence the student grants to the database licensor. Any personal information or content a student submits may be stored by the licensor, potentially offshore, and will be used to process the database service in accordance with the licensors terms of service and/or privacy policy.
If any student chooses not to agree to the database licensor’s terms of service or privacy policy, the student will not be able to access and use the database. In these circumstances students should contact their lecturer to enquire about alternative arrangements that are available.

Distribution of grades policy

Academic Quality Assurance Committee monitors the performance of students, including attrition, further study and employment rates and grade distribution, and College reports on quality assurance processes for assessment activities, including alignment with national and international disciplinary and interdisciplinary standards, as well as qualification type learning outcomes.

Since first semester 1994, ANU uses a grading scale for all courses. This grading scale is used by all academic areas of the University.

Support for students

The University offers students support through several different services. You may contact the services listed below directly or seek advice from your Course Convener, Student Administrators, or your College and Course representatives (if applicable).

Dr Brent Groves
6125 4035

Research Interests

Galaxies-Star formation-Interstellar Medium Physics

Dr Brent Groves

Tuesday 14:00 17:00
Wednesday 14:00 17:00
Thursday 14:00 17:00
Dr Brent Groves
6125 4035

Research Interests

Dr Brent Groves

Tuesday 14:00 17:00
Wednesday 14:00 17:00
Thursday 14:00 17:00
Dr Elisabete Lima da Cunha
6125 8049

Research Interests

Dr Elisabete Lima da Cunha

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