ASTR8008 -- Star Formation

Semester 1, 2018

Class meeting times

Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 10 AM - 12 PM
Woolley Seminar Room


This course covers the basics of star formation and the transition to planet formation. We begin with a survey of the physical processes that govern star-forming clouds, including magnetohydrodyanmic turbulence, gravitational instability, non-ideal MHD effects, and radiative transfer by molecules and dust grains. We then study the star formation process starting at galactic scales and working our way down, touching on topics including: star formation laws; molecular cloud formation, evolution, and disruption; collapse, fragmentation, and the origin of the initial mass function; protostellar disks and outflows; pre-main sequence stellar evolution; massive stars and feedback; and the dispersal of disks and the onset of planet formation.


Our main reference for this class will be my book Star Formation. You can get the book in several ways:

For a few topics the main reference will be Physics of the Interstellar and Intergalactic Medium, by Bruce Draine. This book is well worth buying, but if you would prefer not to just for a few chapters, I have copies in my office that I can make available.

In addition, we will have supplementary readings from review articles and the research literature each week. Links are below.

Assignments and assessment

There are three types of assessment for this class. Each type is worth an equal portion of the final grade.

Problem sets

There will be 5 problem sets throughout the term. Problem sets are included in the textbook. The due dates for the problem sets are listed in the class-by-class schedule. Assigments are due at 5 PM on the date listed in the schedule, and can be submitted either on paper directly to me, or sent to me by email in PDF format. Late submissions will be accepted up to one week after the due date, at a penalty of half the credit.

You are strongly encouraged to work together on the problem sets, but every student should submit a separate write-up of his / her solutions. Note that the solutions to the assignments are given in the appendices of the book. You are on your honour not to look at them until after you have turned in the assignment. If you are cheating in a graduate level class in astrophysics, boy have you missed the point...


Every week after the first there will be a presentation from one or more students, covering the supplementary reading for that week. These will be scheduled during the first class meeting. Presentations should last approximately 20 minutes, and should summarise the main findings of the paper and their importance. They can be done on the board or with projection, as the presenter prefers.

The presentations will be followed by about 15 minutes of discussion in class. All students are responsible for reading the paper and have a question or comment prepared for the discussion. We will begin the discussions by collecting the comments / questions. Students are encouraged but not required send your question / comment to the presenter for that week in advance. The evaluation for presentations will be based on both the presentation that each student leads, and the quality of his / her contribution to the discussion for other students' presentations.

Final exam

There will be an oral final examination during the examination period. These will be individually scheduled. The exam will last 45 minutes, and will involve answering a series of questions / performing calculations on the board.

Class-by-Class Topics and Reading

Date Topic Textbook Review Reading Literature Reading Homework
20 Feb Observing the cold ISM Ch. 1 Kennicutt & Evans, 2012, ARA&A, 50, 531, sec. 1
21 Feb Observing young stars Ch. 2 Kennicutt & Evans, 2012, ARA&A, 50, 531, sec. 3
Krumholz, 2014, Phys. Rep., 539, 49, sec. 2
27 Feb Chemistry and thermodynamics Ch. 3 Krumholz, 2014, Phys. Rep., 539, 49, sec. 3.1-3.2
28 Feb Gas flows and turbulence Ch. 4 Krumholz, 2014, Phys. Rep., 539, 49, sec. 3.3 Glover et al., 2010, MNRAS, 404, 2 (Salim)
6 Mar Magnetic fields Ch. 5 Crutcher, 2012, ARA&A, 50, 29
7 Mar Gravitational instability Ch. 6 Krumholz, 2014, Phys. Rep., 539, 49, sec. 3.4 Li et al., 2008, ApJ, 684, 380 (Lowson) Problem set 1 due
13 Mar Feedback Ch. 7 Krumholz et al., 2014, PPVI, p. 243
14 Mar Giant molecular clouds Ch. 8 Dobbs et al., 2014, PPVI, p. 3 Dale et al., 2014, MNRAS, 442, 694 (Buckland-Willis)
Raskutti et al., 2016, ApJ, 829, 130 (Munro)
20 Mar Galaxy-scale star formation: observations Ch. 9 Kennicutt & Evans, 2012, ARA&A, 50, 531, sec. 5-6
21 Mar Galaxy-scale star formation: theory Ch. 10 Krumholz, 2014, Phys. Rep., 539, 49, sec. 4 Leroy et al., 2017, ApJ, 846, 71 (Qu)
27 Mar Stellar clustering Ch. 11 Krumholz, 2014, Phys. Rep., 539, 49, sec. 5
28 Mar The IMF: observations Ch. 12 Offner et al., 2014, PPVI, p. 53 Ostriker & Shetty, 2011, ApJ, 731, 41 (Li) Problem set 2 due
2 - 16 Apr: semester break
17 Apr The IMF: theory Ch. 13 Krumholz, 2014, Phys. Rep., 539, 49, sec. 6
18 Apr Discs and outflows: observation Ch. 14 Li et al., 2014, PPVI, p. 173, sec. 1-2 da Rio et al., 2012, ApJ, 748, 14 (Wong)
24 Apr Discs and outflows: theory Ch. 15 Li et al., 2014, PPVI, p. 173, sec. 3-6
25 April ANZAC Day -- no class
1 May Protostar formation Ch. 16 Dunham et al., 2014, PPVI, p. 173, sec. 1-4 Tobin et al., 2012, Nature, 492, 83 (Zhang)
Seifreid et al., 2013, MNRAS, 432, 3320 (Livingston)
Problem set 3 due
2 May Protostellar evolution Ch. 17 Dunham et al., 2014, PPVI, p. 173, sec. 5-9
8 May Massive star formation Ch. 18 Tan et al., 2014, PPVI, p. 149 Tomida et al., 2013, ApJ, 763, 6 (Golding)
9 May The first stars Ch. 19 Bromm, Rep. Prog. Phys. 76, 112901
14 May Planet formation I (Mike Ireland guest lecture)
15 May Planet formation II (Mike Ireland guest lecture)
22 May Late stage stars and discs Ch. 20 Alexander et al., 2014, PPVI, p. 475 Rosen et al., 2016, MNRAS, 463, 2553 Problem set 4 due
23 May The transition to planet formation Ch. 21 Johansen et al., 2014, PPVI, p. 547
30 May -- Problem set 5 due