AST 541 - Fall 2012

Seminar in Theoretical Astrophysics: Star Formation

Course Description

The study of star formation lies at the nexus of modern astrophysics,with connections to a wide range of other fields ranging from galactic structure and evolution to physics of the interstellar medium to formation of planetary systems.  Observational studies of star formation draw on essentially all astronomical wavelengths, from radio to X-rays, and current facilities including HST, Spitzer, Herschel, and ALMA are providing increasingly rich and detailed views of star formation phenomena from scales of giant molecular clouds and above to circumstellar disks and below.

Many paradigmatic theoretical problems involving gravitational collapse, turbulence, accretion flows, radiation hydrodynamics, and other fundamental astrophysical processes were first investigated in the context of star formation, and modeling the complex interplay of these effects is central to forefront numerical work in the field.

In this course, we will review a range of topics in star formation, primarily concentrating on theory but also including the observations that motivate and constrain these studies.  Each week will have a theme and two student presentations.  The presentations will draw on papers in the astrophysical literature, including both classic works, reviews, and reports of the most recent advances.

Each presentation will be 30 minutes long, followed by 10 minutes for questions and discussion.  Presentations should include relevant observational background.  Papers to be covered by presenters will be posted in advance, and everyone should read the papers and come to the seminar prepared to ask questions and contribute to the discussion after the talk.  After the presentation, everyone in the seminar will be asked to provide (anonymous) constructive feedback to the speaker. Each student speaks once per semester, and should set up a meeting with the instructor (Eve) to go over the plan for the talk in the week prior to the date of the presentation. Grading for the course is on a P/F basis.