AST 494 / AST 591 — Astrophysics Seminar, Fall 2009
The Pre-solar Nebula and Early Solar System

Meeting Time:   Fri  12:15 – 1:30 PM
                            (First meeting: Fri Aug 28 2009  12:15 PM)

Place:         PSF 226
Instructors: Rolf Jansen & Steven Desch
Course web-page:

Rolf Jansen: office: PSF 230          Steven Desch: office: PSF 234A
office hours: by appointment          office hours: by appointment
e-mail:          e-mail:
telephone: (480) 727-7119          telephone: (480) 965-7742

Course Objectives:
The aim of this course is to introduce you, the students, to seminal papers and more recent developments in the astronomical and astrophysical research of the conditions within the pre-solar nebula and governing the early solar system. We will do so through presentations followed by discussion with active participation by all students, and determine what are the active areas of research in this broad topic. Textbooks, by their nature, are out of date at the time of their publication. In this course we aim to bridge the gap between passive acquisition of knowledge and active PhD research by reading and discussing papers from the professional literature. The emphasis will lie on the development and uncertainties of current scientific theory and method.
Oral reports on the papers selected will be presented in class at the rate of one ~45 minute presentation per week (assuming the number of students is 13 or less). Oral reports by senior graduate students, postdocs and/or talks by visiting scientists would be on a voluntary and as-time-permits basis only. Each report should consist of a general introduction covering the scope of the paper and where it fits within the larger field of research of which the paper is part, followed by a more detailed summary of the original research presented in the paper and a discussion of its impact. Each presentation is followed by time for questions and answers, and discussion by the students, using questions e-mailed to Dr. Jansen in advance of each class as a guide. At the end of each class, you will be asked to evaluate the student speaker. Please fill out the evaluation form, and return it to the instructor at the end of the class. Like in the refereeing process in publishing scientific papers, you may remain anonymous. But please be polite in your comments, because you too one day will be judged by your peers!
Dates for the presentations(s) by each student will be assigned within the first week of the first class — first come, first serve (see the Seminar Schedule below). The choice of paper(s) to discuss will be up to the student, but certain restrictions and requirements will apply (see also Tips.., below). We'll be happy to discuss that choice.

Requirements and Course Grades:
70% of the final grade will be based on the presentation, where the emphasis lies more on content and clarity than on how fancy the presentation looks. Each student is responsible for providing Dr. Jansen no later than one week before their scheduled presentation the full bibliographic reference to one or more papers of their choice (i.e., the last possible moment will be in class the week before). He will place a link on the course web-page to an electronic version of the paper(s) (PDF/Postscript), so all students can download and read it/them, and formulate questions. Non-timely submission of a reference will result in a reduction of your grade. Also, after class, each student must send Dr. Jansen their electronic presentation exported as a PDF file with all fonts included (if the PDF file size is larger than ~3 Mb when exporting from PowerPoint or similar presentation software, then first remove any background images and try again). He will create a link to it into the following table (see Seminar Schedule below), so it can be viewed and consulted later. (Note, that you may have to install appropriate software to be able to read PDF files and/or export your presentation to a PDF file).
30% of the final grade will be based on the participation by each student in the discussion of each paper, as demonstrated by the posing of non-trivial questions and reasoning demonstrating the use of the scientific method. Each student, except the student giving the presentation, must prepare and e-mail Dr. Jansen at least two non-trivial questions regarding the paper(s) no later than 5:00 PM of the Thursday before each class (except if that class is a Special Seminar by a visiting scientist).
Note that failure to submit questions for at least 50% of the presentations means that even if you give a perfect presentation, your final grade can be no better than a C+. Also note that, whereas a question can be trivial, confused or poorly posed, the only stupid question is a question not asked.

A full bibliographic reference includes at the very least (1) the name of the lead author, (2) publication year, (3) name or abbreviation of the journal, (4) volume number, and (5) page number. Do not send me just a web-link to a PDF file or just a PDF file. It is OK to send me a link in addition to the full bibliographic reference, but in that case please specify the relevant ADS abstract page (for example: ).

For the computer-based presentations (i.e., HTML, PDF, Power Point, etc..), an old laptop computer running Redhat 9 Linux (with Mozilla 1.4.2 browser, Acrobat Reader 5.0 [PDF], and OpenOffice 1.1 [PPT]) will be available in the classroom, but students are encouraged to and will likely prefer to bring and use their own Windows, Linux or Macintosh laptop. If you use a Macintosh, remember to bring a DVI-to-VGA adaptor to connect to the LCD projector. Note, that the projector provides a 1024×768 pixel standard field of view, and has a 60 Hz refresh rate, so you need to adjust your display settings if you have a wide-screen laptop. Practice doing so in advance of your presentation.
If you prepare a PowerPoint presentation and do not plan to use your own laptop, send your presentation no later than Thursday afternoon preceding class to Dr. Jansen by e-mail as an attachment, so he can verify that it displays properly: proprietary fonts from Microsoft, Adobe, and other commercial founderies (e.g., math and greek symbols, fancy fonts) often don't display or are substituted by unreadable characters on Open Source machines!

Tips for finding a suitable paper:
For a 45 min presentation, single 4 or 5-page Letters are not suitable (but three related ones might well be). Typically, papers should be the equivalent of 15–20 pages in a main journal (multi-page tables or atlasses of figures, and the list of references don't count toward this number. Also, manuscripts in pre-print format should be at least 3× as many pages.
Papers that had/have a large impact will be cited by many other authors. Papers with few or no citations, or mostly self-citations by the authors, may not be suitable for discussion. Papers are required to (1) have been published in a peer reviewed journal or been accepted for publication in a peer reviewed journal and (2) have at least 1 non-trivial citation by researchers other than the authors of that paper. Discussion of a paper that recently appeared on 'astro-ph' may be OK if the above conditions are met, and the "Comments" give a specific volume/issue of the peer-reviewed journal where such paper is scheduled to appear.

Although not a complete depository of all scientific literature in astronomy and astrophysics, none the less, astronomy as a science is blessed in having a very large, full-text digital library: the NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS) ( For example, a search for a paper that I discussed a while back returned:

1 1962ApJ...136..748E
1.000 11/1962 A   F   G   R   C   S   O   U   H
Eggen, O. J.; Lynden-Bell, D.; Sandage, A. R.
Evidence from the motions of old stars that the Galaxy collapsed.

A full text, printable version of this paper may be obtained by clicking on the "F" link (or by clicking on the full reference link or "A" link, and following the links on the abstract page that it opens). Often, there is also a "G" that points to GIF-format scans of each page of the paper or an "E" that points to an HTML version (both may come handy to extract/retrieve a digital version of a figure, table or equation to insert in your presentation). To check the number of citations, one can click the link marked "C".
Full resolution Postscript versions of figures can often be found on the LANL ( preprint server: ( by searching for the lead author(s) and selecting [..., other] as the download format and then Source (this will allow you to download a tar-ball, which includes the originally submitted figures). Note, that the preprint can be of an earlier year than the actual year of publication and may not even correspond to the published version!

The following is the schedule of presentations:

Fall 2009 Seminar Schedule
Date Person Paper Title + link to presentation
8/28   Rolf Jansen &
Steven Desch
  Introduction to the Class; sign-up for presentations
9/04   Rolf Jansen PS/PDF, PS/PDF Accretion in the Early Kuiper Belt: Coagulation, Velocity Evolution & Fragmentation,
Kenyon, S.J., & Luu, J.X.: 1998, AJ 115, 2136 and 1999, AJ 118, 1101
9/11   Steve Desch PS/PDF A correlation between the heavy element content of transiting extrasolar planets and the metallicity of their parent stars, Guillot, T., et al. 2006, A&A 453, L21
9/18   Justin Spengel PS/PDF Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) Activity of Low Mass M Stars as An Important Factor for The Habitability of Terrestrial Exoplanets - II., Lammer, H., et al. 2007, Astrobiology 7, 185
9/21   Themis Athanasiadou
  SESE Astronomy Seminar    (PSF-226   12:00–1:00PM)
Penetration of Supernova Radioactivites in the Solar System
9/25       no class
10/02   Mark Richardson PS/PDF,
Measurements of Spin-Orbit Alignment in an Extrasolar Planetary System, Winn, J.N., et al. 2005, ApJ 631, 1215;    (and Barnes, J.W. 2009, astro-ph/0909.1752 for recent updates)
10/07   Chris Groppi
  SESE Colloquium    (PSF-173   4:10–5:00PM)
Exploring the Life Cycle of the Interstellar Medium with Terahertz Spectroscopy
10/09   Teresa Ashcraft PS/PDF High-resolution simulations of the final assembly of Earth-like planets I. Terrestrial accretion and dynamics, Raymond, S.N., Quinn, T., & Lunine, J.I. 2006, Icarus 183, 265
10/16       no class
10/21   Meenakshi Wadhwa
  SESE Colloquium    (PSF-173   4:10–5:00PM)
The Age of the Solar System: How well do we know it and why do we care?
10/23       class canceled due to graduate student "Townhall"
10/28   Riccardo Giacconi   Distinguished Lecturer Series:    (PSF-173   7:30–9:00PM)
A new revolution in astronomy 400 years after Galileo
10/29   Riccardo Giacconi   Physics Colloquium    (PSF-101   3:15–4:15PM)
X-ray astronomy 2009
10/30   Simon Porter PS/PDF,
Formation of the Terrestrial Planets,
Hansen, B.M.S. 2009, ApJ 703, 1131   and   Davies, J.H. 2008, E&PSL 268, 376
11/06   Mike Pagano PS/PDF,
Probability Distribution of Habitable Terrestrial Planets,
Raymond et al. 2007, ApJ 669, 606   and   Guo et al. 2009, Ap&SS (in press); (see Selsis et al. 2007, A&A 476, 1373 for additional context)
11/13   Steve Desch PS/PDF Cryovolcanism on Charon and other Kuiper Belt Objects,
(related papers: Gomes et al. 2005, Nature 435, 466; Desch et al. 2009, Icarus 202, 694)
11/20   Justin Spengel PS/PDF,
The Cradle of Our Solar System: Star Formation in H II Region Environments,
Hester et al. 2004, Science 304, 1116 and Hester & Desch 2005, ASPC 341, 107
11/27       Thanksgiving holiday — no class
11/30   Leisa Townsley
(Penn State)
  SESE Astronomy Seminar    (PSF-226   12:00–1:00PM)
Not Your Grandmother's H II Regions
12/02   Deidre Hunter
  SESE Colloquium    (PSF-173   4:10–5:00PM)
Dust, Gas, and Star Formation in Dwarf Galaxies
12/04   Matt Mechtley PS/PDF,
The Delivery of Water to Terrestrial Planets: Earth and Mars,
Morbidelli, A., et al. 2000, M&PS 35, 1309 and Lunine, J.I., et al. 2003, Icarus 165, 1
12/11   Brad Whitmore
  SESE Astronomy Seminar    (PSF-226   12:00–1:00PM)
What We Have Learned from the Antennae Galaxies?

    recommended Dept. of Physics / School of Earth & Space Exploration Colloquia.
    class introduction / Special Seminar by visiting scientist or new staff at our regular class time, or Astronomy Seminar

Click on the links below for the Astrophysics Seminar schedules and student presentations of previous semesters:

  • Spring 2009 (Jansen) The Legacy of the last Great Observatory: The Spitzer Space Telescope
  • Fall 2008 (Windhorst) The Ultraviolet Universe: Hot is "Cool", for Young and Old
  • Spring 2008 (Jansen) The Coma Cluster of Galaxies
  • Fall 2007      (Jansen) News from the Frontier: z = 5 and Beyond
  • Spring 2007 (Jansen) Nearby Galaxies: How well do we know our Cosmic Backyard?
  • Fall 2006 (Windhorst) Black Hole Growth & Galaxy Assembly: From First Light & Reionization to the Present
  • Spring 2006 (Jansen) Planet Formation and Our Milky Way Galaxy
  • Fall 2005      (Jansen) Star Formation and Chemical Enrichment: From the First Stars to Present-day Galaxies

Last update: Dec 8 2009 [RAJ]