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Information für die Wissenschaft Nr. 64 | 25. November 2010
Priority Programme 1573: Physics of the Interstellar Medium

The Senate of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has announced the establishment of a new Priority Programme (Schwerpunktprogramm, SPP) on the physics of the interstellar medium. The programme is designed to run for six years, divided into two three-years funding periods.

The interstellar space is filled with a dilute mixture of charged particles, atoms, molecules and dust grains, called the interstellar medium (ISM). It represents a laboratory to study the physics of highly attenuated gases, chemical processes and atomic, molecular and solid state physics under extreme conditions and numerous other questions of natural sciences. The physics of the ISM plays a crucial role in many areas of astronomy from galaxy formation to star and planet formation. Recent observations have revealed that the ISM is a turbulent, multiphase gas, filled with structures on all resolvable spatial scales. This has lead to a paradigm shift in the understanding of the ISM, where the previous equilibrium model is being replaced by a highly dynamical picture of strongly coupled, interacting and turbulently mixed gas phases that are far from equilibrium and that are continuously stirred by processes that are not well understood. The goal of this Priority Programme is to combine observations with our knowledge about the various fundamental key processes that affect the ISM on different scales and to gain a comprehensive understanding and construct a new model of the dynamical, non-linear, multi-phase ISM.

The activities in this Priority Programme are based on three complementary pillars of research:

  • Laboratory studies related to the evolution of the ISM: Research in this area will provide basic data of molecular and ionic reactions as well as transition frequencies and data on dust physics, required for the physical and chemical description of the ISM.
  • Observations are the key to constrain theoretical models and give insight into the structure of the ISM and its dependence on galactic environment.
  • Theory and numerical simulations of the ISM: Various physical ISM processes and especially their coupling are poorly understood and need to be investigated in greater detail. Numerical simulations will determine the spatial density structure and the dynamics of the multi-phase ISM, allowing a detailed comparison with observations.

During the first funding period, the SPP is dedicated to the investigation of the physics and interplay of different processes in the ISM. This includes detailed models of the formation, interaction and mixing of multiple gas phases, heating and cooling processes in the ISM, ISM chemistry and dust physics, the origin of ISM turbulence and its affect on structure formation in the ISM, as well as hydrodynamical and magneto-hydrodynamical simulations of the ISM dynamics in different galactic environments. It also requires the development of new integrated and versatile software tools. Specific focus in the first three years of the SPP will also lie on designing analysis tools that connect to the next generation of telescopes and instruments. Our aim is to provide a direct link between the simulations and the observations. The focus will shift in the second phase of the SPP to the execution of high-resolution multi-scale and multi-physics numerical simulations and their interpretation in the light of these new ground-based and space-borne observatories. Numerical simulations will be applied to different galactic environments, focussing especially on galactic centers, the interaction between halo and disk and to high-redshift galaxies where the structure of the ISM appears to be very different compared to local galaxies.

Interdisciplinary research and interactions between different groups within this SPP are encouraged. Therefore, projects that request personal funding equivalent to one postdoctoral position or more should if possible be supported by at least two PIs from complementary research fields. The exception are dedicated laboratory experiments.

Research Proposals for the initial three-year funding period are now invited. All proposals must be written in English and be prepared according to the guidelines for individual research grants (1.02e, available from the DFG website). Additional information and a proposal template will be available on the Priority Programme’s website. Please send two paper copies and the corresponding pdf-files on a CD-ROM. The proposal should be marked “SPP 1573 – Interstellar Medium“ and sent until Monday, 7 February 2011, to the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, attn. Dr. Stefan Krückeberg, Kennedyallee 40, 53175 Bonn. A review panel meeting with project presentations is planned for 2–3 May 2011, and funding of individual projects will commence in early Fall 2011.

Further Information

Detailed information on this Priority Programme is available at:

The guideline “Research Grants – Guidelines and Proposal Preparation Instructions (1.02e)” can be found at:

Questions regarding the DFG applications should be directed to:

All questions concering scientific aspects of the Priority Programme should be directed to the coordinator: