Astro596 Spring 2007

Syllabus Astronomy 596 :
Observational ISM and Star Formation

Instructor Information:

Instructor: Prof. Leslie Looney Email: lwl @ illinois . edu
Office: 218 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, from HST, Chandra, Spitzer, and JWST to SMA, CARMA, and ALMA, 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:

The main format of this class will be a 20-30 minute lecture, followed by the discussion of a current journal or review article. The main point of this class is the discussion of that article each class, which is why it is stressed so highly in the grade scheme below. Each week, after the first week of class, a predetermined paper (see the Class Schedule for the current list) will be focused upon. The discussion of the papers will be led by the discussion lead. A discussion secondary will chose a relevant reference from the paper, with the guidance of the lead, and give a 5 minute summary of that paper and how it fits into the paper under discussion.

Requirement Percentage of Grade Points
Class Participation 25% 25
Homework 15% 15
Discussion Paper Summary 10% 10
Discussion Lead 35% 35
Discussion Secondary 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 the lecture material into the topics. I find that this is a very effectual teaching tool, so I am using class participation as 25% of the class grade. On the other hand, I, of course expect some absences, but please try to tell me in advance of any missed classes.


There will be 5 homework assignments during the course. These will reinforce lecture and paper material.

Discussion Paper Summary Requirements:

Class time is the most valuable for you if you come prepared, having done the reading and lecture notes, and ready to actively engage the material. Before the discussion of each journal article, a student, not the primary or secondary reviewer, will be randomly chosen to give a brief 5 minute verbal summary of the paper. What are the fundamental conclusions of the paper? Grade points will be reduced if the student is not in class, the summary is more than 5 minutes, or if the student "misses the point", based on the class previous discussions and class lectures.

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, can not exceed 20 minutes. See the lecture notes for the suggested format.

Discussion Secondary Requirements:

As detailed in the first lecture, the discussion secondary will must give a 5 minute (no more) verbal summary of the most relevant reference in the paper. The lead and secondary should agree on the paper to be summarized and agree on where in the lead's discussion it should be summarized.


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.

"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 V" edited by Bo Reipurth and David Jewitt

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 exam, homework, or report 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 the presentations, make sure to properly reference any figures or ideas used. 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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Last modified: Tuesday, 26-Oct-2010 19:44:10 CDT