Astro505 Fall 2015

Syllabus Astronomy 505 :
Star Formation

Instructor Information:

Instructor: Prof. Leslie Looney Email: lwl @ illinois . edu
Office: 123 Astronomy Phone: 244-3615
Office Hours: by appointment, or just drop by

Welcome to Observational Star Formation!

This course is designed to bring the student up to speed on the accelerating field of observational ISM and Star Formation. With the new instruments online, or about to come online, multiple wavelength observations are giving us more and more insight into arguably the most important processes in the Universe-- Star Formation.

Course Goals:

My main goal for this course is to introduce the global concepts of star formation from the observational perspective. In particular, we will emphasize on understanding and interpreting the physical observations and how they place constraints on the theories of star formation.

Nonetheless, this class is designed to be fun, as well as educational. Maybe it depends on your definition of fun. Anyway, the class will endeavor to teach the student about observations by reading the state-of-the-art journal papers.

Credit Hours and Exclusions:

This course gives 4 hours credit. Undergraduates need to have taken at least one 400-level astronomy course.

Course Requirements:

This course will focus on the major areas of active research within the field of star and planet formation using the "Protostars and Planets" meeting as our reference. Every six years the international community holds a Protostars and Planets meeting. The sixth of these meetings, PP-VI, was held in Heidelberg (Germany) on July 2013. A group of researchers proposes talks, and if acccepted, also writes a detailed review of about 20 pages on the subfield, which makes the PP books are a great resource for everyone in the field. All of the talks are online, so we can read the papers, watch the talks, and then discuss. Each week, we will focus on one of the review papers with an assigned weekly discussion leader. We will use the following format:

Monday: The class will be broken into groups of two. The groups will research in class from a set of discussion leader and instructor provided topics for approximately 30 minutes. The topics will be relevant for the paper under discussion. At the end of the 30 minutes, each group will give a 10 minute presenation on their topic and its general relvancy to the review paper. Students will peer grade the presenentations along with the instructor.

Term presentation metric: Presentation: full credit for clarity. Explanation: full credit for well explained term. Context: full credit for placing term in paper context.

Wednesday: The discussion leader will give a presentation on the review paper. The presentation should provide background necessary to place the review paper in context of the previous papers and to add value to the other students. The presentation will not include a conclusion. Conclusion slides will be prepared by every other student (and emailed to the instructor before class). The instructor will chose one of the other students to give conclusions-- 3 to 5 bullets only-- that summarize the importance of the paper to that student. Both presentations will be instructor and peer graded. Since these talks are online, I remind students that these conclusions MUST be in your own words. All students must ask some question at the end of the presentation, which shoud be able to lead to class discussions. Students will be graded by the instructor on class participation.

Requirement Percentage of Grade Points
Paper Presentation 20% 20
Paper Conclusions 20% 20
Group Presentations 25% 25
Class Participation 20% 20
Peer Grading 15% 15
Total 100% 100

Course Participation Requirements:

You are expected to attend lectures. We can not discuss the journal articles if no one is there. In addition, many discussions are spawned that are critical to understanding the material. Each student will be graded on the depth of their discussion with respect to the papers and the integration of previous material into the topics. I find that this is a very effectual teaching tool, so I am using class participation as 20% of the class grade. Any absences shoud be cleared in advance of any missed classes.

Discussion Paper Summary Requirements:

Class time is the most valuable for you if you come prepared, having done the reading, and ready to actively engage the material.

Discussion Lead Requirements:

As detailed in the first lecture, the discussion lead must give a presentation on the journal article. The presentation, without counting interruptions which are encouraged, should not exceed 45 minutes.


The following table shows the approximate grading scale in this course.

Grade Approximate Range
A 90-100%
B 80-89%
C 70-79%
D 60-69%
F <60%

Final course grades will follow these guidelines. Plusses and minuses will be used.


There is no textbook for this class. The information is too current for a textbook. We will be using lecture notes and every class will feature a journal or review article to provide additional information and reinforce lectures. However, there are numerous good books on star formation and the ISM, e.g.

"Notes on Star Formation" by Mark Krumholz (a nice open source textbook)

"The Physics and Chemistry of the Interstellar Medium" by A.G.G.M. Tielens

"Accretion Processes in Star Formation" by Lee Hartmann

"The Formation of Stars" by Steve Stahler

"Protostars and Planets VI " edited by by Henrik Beuther, Ralf S. Klessen, Cornelis Petrus Dullemond, and Thomas K. Henning

Academic Integrity and Collaborative Work:

Academic honesty is essential to this course and the University. Any instance of academic dishonesty (including but not limited to cheating, plagiarism, falsification of data, and alteration of grade) will be documented in the student's academic file. In addition, the particular assignment will be given a zero.

Guidelines for collaborative work: Discussing course material with your classmates is in general a good idea, but each student is expected to do his or her own work. For further info, see the Student Code, Part 4. Academic Integrity, at

Accessibility Statement:

To insure that disability-related concerns are properly addressed from the beginning, students with disabilities who require reasonable accommodations to participate in this class are asked to see the instructor as soon as possible.

Course Schedule:

Note that the lecture material may vary, especially as the presentations are yet to be decided. Remember to check the Class Schedule for the most up to date schedule.

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Leslie Looney
Last modified: Friday, 21-Aug-2015 15:48:35 CDT