(ISM, interstellar matter)
(matter within a galaxy between star systems)
The interstellar medium (ISM) is
matter such as gas and dust between stars.
(Matter between entire galaxies is called the intergalactic medium.)
Depending upon circumstance, the gas may be
ionized, neutral, or molecular.
Number density varies from as little as 1 per
10,000 cm3 to 1,000,000 per cm3
(compared to about 2.5×1019 per cm3
for dry air at sea level).
The ISM's existence was first deduced
through observed absorption lines
(interstellar absorption lines), especially as noticed as common
to stars close together within the celestial sphere,
thus showing the effects of passing through material in front
There is a nesting of types of ISM:
- Most ISM: intercloud gas, warm-to-hot and very thin: ionized hydrogen (HII) or neutral atomic hydrogen (HI) at thousands of K (warm neutral medium, WNM, aka warm intercloud medium or (hotter) warm ionized medium, WIM, or (even hotter) coronal gas/hot coronal gas/hot ionized medium, HIM).
- Cooler, denser region of neutral hydrogen (HI and some CII) at 50-100 K (cold neutral medium or CNM, HI region).
- Even cooler, denser subregion: molecular hydrogen (H2, with CI and CO) at 10-20 K (molecular cloud, the site of possible star formation).
- Subregion reheated/dissociated/ionized by recently-formed, hot stars, to thousands of K, but still dense: HII, CII, and NII (HII region, modeled by Strömgren sphere).
The hot ionized medium (HIM) often results from supernovae, and
is referred to as coronal gas because its temperature (and perhaps
other characteristics) are comparable to the gas of the Sun's
The term cloud is used for regions with particular characteristics,
such as a higher density, which may be termed an interstellar cloud,
gas cloud, dust cloud, dense cloud, etc.
A diffuse interstellar band (DIB) is an absorption
spectral band affecting observations of stars and other objects.
Such bands are attributed to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the ISM.
Referenced by pages:
Balmer jump (BJ)
dark matter halo
dense core mass function (DCMF)
diffuse interstellar bands (DIBs)
dispersion measure (DM)
diffractive interstellar scintillation (DISS)
extragalactic background light (EBL)
energetic neutral atom (ENA)
extreme ultraviolet (EUV)
star formation feedback
fast radio burst (FRB)
galactic electron density
gamma rays (GR)
hydrogen cyanide (HCN)
helium 1083 nm line
Herbig-Haro object (HH)
HII region (HII)
HI region (HI)
ionization correction factor (ICF)
intergalactic medium (IGM)
Interstellar Medium Absorption Profile Spectrograph (IMAPS)
interplanetary medium (IPM)
magnesium lines (Mg lines)
natural astronomical telescopes
pulsar wind nebula (PWN)
radio supernova (RSN)
refractive interstellar scintillation (RISS)
Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS)
submillimeter galaxy (SMG)
supernova remnant (SNR)