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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. In contrast, exo-planetary systems show us how other protoplanetary systems evolved differently than our own. We will discuss recent observational work with ALMA and VLT, past and future missions to comets and asteroids, and exciting first results from the newly launched James Webb Space Telescope that will be obtained during the fall 2022 semester.

The detailed outline is:

  • Dense molecular clouds

  • Cloud collapse and spectral energy distributions

  • Bipolar outflows

  • Pre-main sequence stars

  • High-mass star formation

  • Circumstellar disks

  • Disk evolution and grain growth

  • Formation of planets

  • Kuiper-Belt objects and structure of debris disks

  • Meteorites & primitive solar system material

  • Exoplanets as probes of planet formation processes

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).


See Schedules Astronomy Master

You will find the timetables for all courses and degree programmes of Leiden University in the tool MyTimetable (login). Any teaching activities that you have sucessfully registered for in MyStudyMap will automatically be displayed in MyTimeTable. Any timetables that you add manually, will be saved and automatically displayed the next time you sign in.

MyTimetable allows you to integrate your timetable with your calendar apps such as Outlook, Google Calendar, Apple Calendar and other calendar apps on your smartphone. Any timetable changes will be automatically synced with your calendar. If you wish, you can also receive an email notification of the change. You can turn notifications on in ‘Settings’ (after login).

For more information, watch the video or go the the 'help-page' in MyTimetable. Please note: Joint Degree students Leiden/Delft have to merge their two different timetables into one. This video explains how to do this.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures

  • Exercise classes

Assessment method

  • Oral exam (by appointment): 100% of final grade

  • Presentation (optional; if chosen, both the presentation and the oral exam count for 50% for the final grade)

Reading list

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


From the academic year 2022-2023 on every student has to register for courses with the new enrollment tool MyStudyMap. There are two registration periods per year: registration for the fall semester opens in July and registration for the spring semester opens in December. Please see this page for more information.

Please note that it is compulsory to both preregister and confirm your participation for every exam and retake. Not being registered for a course means that you are not allowed to participate in the final exam of the course. Confirming your exam participation is possible until ten days before the exam.

Extensive FAQ's on MyStudymap can be found here.


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


This course is given every other year.

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)