Origin and Evolution of the Interstellar Medium
The evolution of the interstellar medium is driven by a number of complex processes which are deeply interwoven, including mass accretion from nearby (dwarf) systems and the intergalactic medium, mass ejection into the halo and interglactic medium, stellar mass injection into the interstellar medium, star formation, mechanical energy input by stellar winds and supernova explosions, and radiative energy input. These processes are mediated by dust and molecules in an only partially understood way. This complex feedback between stars and the medium they are formed in drives the evolution of galaxies and their observational characteristics. This review describes our understanding of the synergetic interaction of these processes and culminates in a set of key questions.
JWST is set to expand studies of the global interstellar medium to the far reaches of the universe and the earliest times. Yet, our understanding of what these observations tell us about what really happens at those epochs will depend very much on our understanding of the microscopic physical and chemical processes and their dependence on the local conditions. These are best studied in the local universe. In order to reap the full benefits of JWST, a concerted program of key observations is required involving not only JWST but also, and in particular, SOFIA and Herschel. This is illustrated by a personal selection of key program.
KeywordsStar Formation Interstellar Medium Star Formation Rate Interstellar Dust Starburst Galaxy
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