AST 494 / AST 591 — Astrophysics Seminar, Spring 2007
Nearby Galaxies: How well do we know our Cosmic Backyard?

Meeting Time:   Friday  3:40 – 4:55 PM   (following "Astro-coffee" at 3:00 PM)
                            (First meeting: Fri Jan 19 2007  3:40 PM)

Place:         PSF 226
Instructor: Rolf Jansen

Rolf Jansen: office: PSF 230
office hours: by appointment
telephone: (480) 727-7119

Course Objectives:
The aim of this course is to introduce you, the students, to a series of seminal papers and on more recently published work in the general area of this semester's broad topic — spanning the 0.05–500 Mpc (z~0.1) range in distance. The emphasis should lie on the development and uncertainties of scientific theory and method, rather than on just the latest discovery or measurement or incremental improvement in a particular technique.
By unanimous vote, oral reports on the papers selected will be presented in class at the rate of one ~50 minute presentation per week, one per student. 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 paper and a discussion of its impact. Each presentation is followed by time for questions and answers, and discussion. Participation by each student — as demonstrated by the posing of non-trivial questions — will be taken into account in determining the grades.
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 to discuss will be up to the student, but certain restrictions and requirements will apply (see also Tips.., below). I'll be happy to discuss that choice and offer suggestions.

The majority of the work for this class will revolve around computer-based presentations (i.e., HTML, PDF, Power Point, etc..). A laptop computer running Redhat 9 Linux (with Mozilla 1.4.2 browser, Acrobat Reader 5.0 [PDF], and OpenOffice 1.0.2 [PPT]) will be available in the classroom to give the presentation, but students are free 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.
No later than one week before their scheduled presentation, each student should provide me with the full bibliographic reference to a paper of their choice. I will place a link on the class web-page to an electronic version of this paper (PDF/Postscript), so all other students can download and read it, formulate questions, and thus participate in the discussion of that paper during class.
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 me by e-mail as an attachment, so I can check that it displays properly: proprietary fonts from Microsoft, Adobe, and other commercial founderies (e.g., math symbols!), often don't on Open Source machines!
In all cases, after you finish your talk, send the electronic presentation to me, preferably as a ≤2.0 Mb PDF file. I will create a link to it into the following table (see Seminar Schedule below), so it can be viewed and consulted later.

Tips for finding a suitable paper:
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, are not suitable for discussion. Papers are required to (1) have been published in a peer reviewed journal and (2) have at least 3 citations by researchers other than the authors of that paper. I.e., discussion of a paper that recently appeared on 'astro-ph' is strongly discouraged unless the "Comments" give a specific volume/issue of the peer-reviewed journal where such paper is scheduled to appear and the citation requirement is satisfied.
For a 50 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).

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 last year 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 whether a paper has a sufficient number of citations, one can click the link marked "C".
Full resolution 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 year of publication.

The following is the schedule of presentations:

Spring 2007 Seminar Schedule
Date Person Paper Title + link to presentation
1/19   Rolf Jansen PS/PDF,
Introduction to the Class
Spectrophotometric Properties of Nearby Galaxies
1/26       No class
2/07   Jan-Uwe Ness
  SESE Colloquium    PSF-101 3:40PM
The X-ray view of Classical Novae
2/09   Raman Narayan PS/PDF Comprehensive stellar population models and the disentanglement of age and metallicity effects,
Worthey, G., 1994, ApJS 95, 107
2/16   Natalie Hinkel PS/PDF Galactic bridges and tails,
Toomre, A. & Toomre, J., 1972, ApJ 178, 623
2/23   Wendy Hawley PS/PDF,
II Nuclei in Nearby Galaxies,
Ho, Filippenko & Sargent 1997, ApJ 487, 579 and Ho & Filippenko 1996, ApJ 466, L83
2/27   John Mather
  Q&A with SESE/Physics students    PSF-101 6:15–7:15PM
Doing a career at NASA        — pizza will be served —
2006 Nobel Laureate Colloquium     PSF-166 7:30–9:00PM
From the Big Bang to the Nobel Prize
3/01   Scott Ransom
  Dept. of Physics Colloquium    PSF-123 4:00PM
A Millisecond Pulsar Jackpot with the Green Bank Telescope
3/02   Vithal Tilvi PS/PDF Dwarf Galaxies of the Local Group,
Mateo, M.L. 1998, ARA&A 36, 435
3/07   Paul Davies
  Distinguished Lecturer Series (General Public Lecture)    PSF-173 7:30–8:30PM
Did Life on Earth Come from Mars?
3/08   Paul Davies
  Dept. of Physics Colloquium    PSF-123 4:00PM
The Arrow of Time
3/09   Meredith Reitz PS/PDF,
XMM-Newton observations of dark matter and entropy profiles in nearby galaxy clusters,
Pratt & Arnaud 2005, A&A 429, 791   and Pratt, Arnaud & Pointecouteau 2006, A&A 446, 429
3/16       Spring break — no class
3/23   Adam Mott PS/PDF The BIMA Survey of Nearby Galaxies. I. The Radial Distribution of CO Emission in Spiral Galaxies,
Regan, M.W., Thornley, M.D., Helfer, T.T., et al. 2001, ApJ 561, 218
3/30   Brian Gleim PS/PDF Final results from the Hubble Space Telescope Key Project to measure the Hubble constant,
Freedman, W.L., Madore, B.F., Gibson, B.K., et al. 2001, ApJ 553, 47
4/05   Sean Raymond
(U Colorado)
  Special seminar    (PSF-226 3:00–4:00PM)
The Formation of Habitable Planets
4/06   Jim Haldenwang PS/PDF Cosmological applications of gravitational lensing,
Blandford, R.D., & Narayan, R. 1992, ARA&A 30, 311
4/11   Karen Knierman
  Special seminar    (PSF-226 12:15–1:15PM)
Tidal Tales of Minor Mergers: Star Formation in the Tidal Debris of Minor Mergers
4/13   Hwihyun Kim PS/PDF Is the SMC bound to the LMC? The HST proper motion of the SMC,
Kallivayalil, N., van der Marel, R., & Alcock, C., 2006, ApJ 652, 1213
4/19   Marc Audard
  Special seminar    (PSF-226 1:30–2:30PM)
On the origin of X-rays in young stars and their impact on the surrounding proto-planetary disk
4/20   Rolf Jansen PS/PDF,
Measuring Star Formation Rates in Nearby Galaxies
4/26   Anna Pasquali
(Max Planck, Heidelberg)
  Special seminar    (PSF-226 12:00–1:00PM)
Star formation ecology: star clusters & field
4/27   Ignacio Ferreras
(King's College)
  Special seminar    (PSF-226 12:00–1:00PM)
A dark matter telescope to observe early-type galaxies
4/27   Cecilia Lunardini
(U. of Washington)
  Special seminar    (PSF-123 1:30–2:30PM   and   PSF-566 3:00–3:45PM)
Neutrino Astrophysics and Core Collapse Supernovae and related future research
5/04       No class
5/16   Katja Pottschmidt
(UC San Diego)
  Special seminar    (PSF-226 4:00–5:00PM)
Understanding Black Hole Binaries: Recent Highlights

    recommended Dept. of Physics / School of Earth & Space Exploration Colloquia/Seminars
    class introduction / Special Seminar by visiting scientist or new staff (may be Fri 12:15 PM / Mon 12:30 PM in PSF-226)

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

  • Fall 2006Black Hole Growth & Galaxy Assembly: From First Light & Reionization to the Present
  • Spring 2006Planet Formation and Our Milky Way Galaxy
  • Fall 2005Star Formation and Chemical Enrichment: From the First Stars to Present-day Galaxies

Last update: May 15 2007 [RAJ]