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Star and Planet Formation


Admission requirements

Astronomy bachelor course Radiative Processes.


Stars and planets are formed deep inside molecular clouds, but how this actually happens is still being unravelled. This course will provide a broad overview of our current theoretical and observational understanding of the physical processes involved in star- and planet formation. The course consists of two parts. First, the cloud collapse leading to protostars with dense envelopes, circumstellar accretion disks and outflows is discussed. Second, the evolution of protoplanetary disks and the scenarios for the formation of giant and terrestrial planets are presented. Kuiper Belt Objects, comets and meteorites each tell their own story about the physical processes that took place in our own early Solar System. Finally, the results are put in the context of our current knowledge of exo-planetary systems. Recent observations from the Herschel Space Observatory, ALMA and other facilities are highlighted throughout the course, as are exciting results from the Rosetta and Stardust missions to comets.

The detailed outline is:

  • Dense molecular clouds

  • Cloud collapse and spectral energy distributions

  • Circumstellar disks

  • Bipolar outflows

  • Pre-main sequence stars

  • High-mass star formation

  • Disk evolution and grain growth

  • Formation of planets

  • Chemical evolution of protostellar matter

  • Kuiper-Belt objects and structure of debris disks

  • Meteorites

  • Primitive solar system material; results from Rosetta

  • What do exo-planets tell us about planet formation

Course objectives

The student will gain up-to-date insight into one of the fastest growing research areas in astronomy. The course will provide sufficient background to be able to follow the current literature on star- and planet formation and to do research in this field or in a neighboring field (e.g., star formation in external galaxies or on cosmological scales).

Soft skills

In this course, students will be trained in the following behaviour-oriented skills:

  • Motivation (commitment, pro-active attitude, initiative)

  • Verbal communication (presenting, speaking, listening)

  • Critical thinking (asking questions, check assumptions)

  • Creative thinking (resourcefulness, curiosity, thinking out of the box)


See Schedules Astronomy master 2017-2018

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures

  • Exercise classes

Assessment method

  • Oral exam (by appointment): 50% of final grade

  • Presentation 50% of the final grade


Brightspace will be used to communicate with students and to share lecture slides, homework assignments, and any extra materials. To have access, you need a student ULCN account.


Via uSis. More information about signing up for your classes can be found here. Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Prospective students website for information on how to apply.

Reading list

Handouts of lecture notes will be made available both on paper and electronically on the course website (see below).

Contact information

Lecturer: Dr. M.K. (Melissa) McClure
Assistant: Pooneh Nazari, Ardjan Sturm


This course is given every other year.