Astronomy 61:
Current Problems in Astronomy and Astrophysics

Spring 2009
Prof. David Cohen

Seminar Room: Science Center 113
9:00 - 9:50 AM on Tuesdays


Our theme in Spring 2009 is large scale structure


weekly archive of papers | schedule

This week we are reading Hopkins & Elvis 2009, "Quasar Feedback: More Bang for Your Buck," submitted to MNRAS, arXiv:0904.0649. Zach wrote the summary.

this week's figure


Each week, the person who chose the paper will send a summary of the paper to the class by 9PM on Monday. And each (other) student will post at least one question on the discussion board forum, also by 9PM on Monday. The discussion board, as well as class announcements (which includes the weekly listing of papers and the summaries), are available on the class Blackboard page.


The goals of this class are to learn how to search and use the astronomical literature, to read papers critically, to apply your knowledge of physics and astronomy to research problems of current interest, and to learn about new developments in astrophysics.

Each week we will read a paper and meet for an hour to discuss it. We will take turns choosing the paper, all of which this semester will be on a specific theme. The person who chooses the week's paper will write a short summary, to be sent out the night before our meeting, and will also introduce the paper at the beginning of class. Everyone else will come up with a question about something that puzzled you about the paper, or about something that you found interesting. You must post your question to Blackboard's discussion board by midnight on Thursday.

We hope that by the end of the semester, you'll be scanning the literature on your own, on a regular basis...just like the pros do. But where to start? Note that there are several different types of places you might look for a paper, including the old fashion way: browsing paper copies on the library shelf. We've organized many different paper and preprint sites below. Please have a look at them. Note that a lot of these databases are searchable by topic.

Resources for Finding Astronomy Research Papers

Head Science Librarian, Meg Spencer, has put together a comprehensive page about databases, reference books, and ways to get hard-to-find resources.

The following links may help you find new papers of interest on various aspects of astronomy. In each category, the first link is one that we find extremely useful. Astro-ph and ADS are by far the most commonly used resources for finding preprints and papers.


  • Astrophysics preprint server. Searchable archive of astronomy preprints (note: other fields too), with links to pdf copies of articles and TeX/LaTeX source. Beware! not all of the preprints here have been refereed - some are just recently submitted papers, some are notes not intended for submission to refereed journals, some are proceedings papers from conferences, and some are borderline or full-fledged crackpottery. On the other hand, you can find preprints of papers from conference proceedings, for example, that you wouldn't find (online) elsewhere and even the papers that also appear in journals show up here much sooner than they do in journals. Note: this database is affectionately known as astro-ph

Published Papers

  • ADS Astronomy Abstract Service. Really the single best resource around for finding papers - a searchable index of the papers in all the major (and many minor) astronomy journals, as well as conference proceedings, observatory publications, and Ph.D. dissertations. You can search by author, title, object name, etc. The full electronic text of most papers from the last several years is available, and scanned versions of all of the major astronomy journals back to Volume 1 in the 1800s. You can now also search astro-ph (see above) through the ADS interface, so you'll rarely need to go elsewhere to find papers.

  • SIMBAD. An enormous on-line database of bibliographic and astronomical information. Good for getting bibliography and astronomical data in the same place. One thing SIMBAD is especially good for is getting a list of papers that mention a specific astronomical object.

  • The three main American journals each have their own websites, of with RSS feeds. The Astronomical Journal is a "society" journal, published by the (non-profit) American Astronomical Society and has an emphasis on observational astronomy. The Astrophysical Journal is also published by the AAS, and although it has plenty of observational papers, its emphasis is weighted more towards theory papers and those with physical interpretations of data. Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific is another society journal, and has a somewhat lower profile than the AJ or the ApJ (as the first two journals are referred to). The PASP has more articles on instrumentation than the other two journals.

    Note that papers on the journal websites linked here are accessible only from the domain - this is a service for subscribers only, and we get access because the library subscribes. Browsing the paper journals in the library can be very rewarding. It's different than electronic searching. Give it a try!

  • The major British journal is the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

  • Astronomy & Astrophysics is the major continental European journal.

  • And Publications of the Astronomical Society of Japan is the primary Japanese journal.

  • Nature and Science are the highest profile multi-disciplinary journals. You won't have found preprints of these papers, since these commercial journals don't allow it (though you may have read about the results in the newspaper!). One nice thing about these journals are the newsy articles at the front, often on topics for which there are research articles in the same issue.


  • AstroWeb is a huge collection of astronomy and astrophysics resources on the Web, including many publication-related links. Sort of like this page, but a lot bigger.

  • The NRAO Library has an extensive list of electronic resources.


Comments or suggestions to David Cohen.

Last modified: April 29, 2009