The physics and chemistry of the interstellar medium

The physics and chemistry of the interstellar medium 

A G G M Tielens  
Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press  | 2005 | 495 pp | ?45 (HB) | ISBN 0521826349 

Reviewed by Anthony Meijer

Astrochemistry is one of the most interdisciplinary, and as a consequence exciting, subjects in modern science. It draws in elements of chemistry, physics, astronomy, applied mathematics, and computer science (for the big simulations).  

Covering such extensive subject material in one book would seem to be an impossible task for a single author, but Tielens has pulled it off with this excellent, though not easy to read, volume. 

Officially, the book is aimed at upper level undergraduates and postgraduates. However, I would argue that all but the brightest undergraduates will struggle with the material, if only because of its scope. 

The book starts with a review of some basic theory, applied to the interstellar medium. Subjects from statistical thermodynamics via chemical reaction mechanisms to the structure of the interstellar medium are discussed in the first four chapters. After that each chapter deals with a particular region of the interstellar medium and discusses them in considerable detail, drawing together observations, experiment and theory in a way that makes each chapter, while being part of a larger whole, stand alone quite well. 

This is a well-written book that would form a good basis for a postgraduate-level astrochemistry course.