Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Classic Papers in Astronomy and Cosmology

  1. Aug 25, 2005 #1


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Hellfire requested that I post a list of classic papers that one could use for reference when trying to understand the current state of astronomy and cosmology. I'll do so here, but if I could politely ask the following:

    - Please do not debate the veracity of the papers in this thread. In fact, I think it would be best just to use this thread as a reference, so make a new thread if you want to discuss the content of any of the papers.
    - If you would like to contribute a paper, please ensure that it's mainstream and that it has lot of citations (>~ 300). Citation counts can be found here.
    - When contributing a paper, please include a brief description in more pedagogical terms than given in the abstract.

    That should do it. I'll add new papers as time permits and as I think of them. The sample that I provide will certainly be biased and incomplete, as my exposure is limited and a lot of the classic papers come from the institution at which I'm studying, so please do not take exception to any of my choices. I'll list them in categories (like cosmology, stellar astronomy, etc.) for ease of reference.
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2005
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 25, 2005 #2


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member



    Press & Schechter 1974

    - This paper describes, with a simple analytical model, the collapse of matter "halos" (a term that includes any overdensity, including galaxies and clusters of galaxies), which arise from the perturbations seen in the microwave background. The methodology has been embraced by cold dark matter theorists because it describes a simple bottom-up scenario, where the smaller halos form before the larger ones, exactly as one would expect in a CDM universe. PS74 is indispensible for the pencil and paper cosmologist because it gives a very simple means of describing the distribution of matter in the universe.

    Gunn & Gott 1972

    - Unlike PS74, which treats the whole spectrum of "halos" and their distribution, this paper follows the collapse of an individual matter halo, demonstrating along the way the importance of accretion in performing such calculations. As a bonus, the end of the paper presents an early model of "ram-pressure stripping" for removing the gas from galaxies embedded in clusters, one of the requirements for reproducing the observed morphology-density relationship.

    Spergel et al. 2003

    - Not a particularly old paper, but certainly one of the most important in cosmology today, the WMAP first-year release demonstrates how the CMB is used as a powerful constraint on the fundamental parameters of the universe. Not only did it independently confirm the values of many cosmological parameters that had been measured by other means, but it measured them more precisely than had ever been done before, ushering in what some would call an age of "precision cosmology".

    Guth 1982

    - The paper that introduced the idea of inflation to the world and gave us the most likely explanation for why we lived in what seemed to be a perfectly flat universe. Many variations on the theme have since been proposed, but the original idea remains intact and it still seems to be a pretty good fit to the data.

    Reiss et al. 1998

    - It had long been assumed that we lived in a decelerating universe because, after all, its theorized constituents (matter and radiation) could only slow the expansion. The above paper, analyzing data from Type Ia supernovae, gave us the first hard observational evidence that this assertion was incorrect and that there was some extra component (or "dark energy") driving the universe to accelerate. Later confirmed by WMAP, this discovery is still an enigma to theorists and suggests that there is still much we don't know about the universe in which we live.

    Alcock et al. 2000

    - This paper doesn't quite make the 300 citation limit I listed above, but that's because it is the combination of many years of observing, with many, many papers along the way. The result that came out of the MACHO survey was extremely important because it ruled out an entire class of dark matter candidates and convinced most folks that dark matter would, most likely, turn out to be in particle form. There are still debates raging about whether or not massive objects can make up a non-negligible fraction of the dark matter in our galaxy, but it's relatively clear now that it can't be the majority.

    Zeldovich 1970

    - It has long been known that galaxies tend to distribute themselves in filament and pancake-like structures, but it is hard to reproduce analytically because the mathematics of non-linear gravitational collapse are tricky. The model presented in this paper is a simple one in which gravitating bodies are shown to collapse along each of their principal axes in succession, producing pancake-like and filament-like structures along the way. Although originally created for different purposes, the model now provides an excellent means of deriving the initial conditions to cosmological N-Body simulations.
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2005
  4. Aug 25, 2005 #3


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Thank you SpaceTiger for those references, this site is as good as having a very versed library service! It is a pity the Guth paper cannot be downloaded free, does anyone know where it may be obtained?

  5. Aug 25, 2005 #4


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Unfortunately, I don't, and I suspect some of the other papers I post will be the same way. The links I provide will only be to the ADS abstract, since I'm assuming that service won't be going dead any time soon, but I can't promise that the paper will be freely available to those outside of academic institutions. If the paper is within the past 10 years, it may be available on astro-ph, but otherwise make note of the reference and look it up in the library.
  6. Aug 25, 2005 #5


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Thank you SpaceTiger. I would add one paper:

    A Universal Density Profile from Hierarchical Clustering
    Julio F. Navarro, Carlos S. Frenk, Simon D.M. White

    It discusses mainly results of simulations for the density profile of halos. I have seen this paper cited many times (the universal "NFW profile") and I assume that it's results are still considered as relevant. To skip the description of the simulations just go to section 5 where the main results are discussed. The main result is summarized in the paper as follows:

    Last edited: Aug 25, 2005
  7. Aug 25, 2005 #6


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Thanks hellfire, given enough time to think of it, I probably would have added that one as well. :wink:

    By the way, I'm adding papers to sections by editing the posts, so what you see above is not the complete and final list for cosmology.
  8. Aug 25, 2005 #7


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Garth, I cannot promise that the SLAC link will work for you. I have a SLOW dial-up connection and I couldn't get it to download, but hopefully you can. Good luck!

  9. Aug 26, 2005 #8


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member
    2015 Award

    An excellent selection, ST. I have a fair collection of my own. Will sift, sort and nominate with your approval.
  10. Aug 26, 2005 #9


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Thank you turbo-1, it didn't work last night but when I tried this morning it downloaded straight away.

  11. Aug 26, 2005 #10


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    This could be the "A&C reference library v.2". :)

    stickifying it...
  12. Aug 26, 2005 #11


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member
    2015 Award

    From my private collection of favorites over the past 10 years:

    Type Ia Supernova Discoveries at z>1 From the Hubble Space Telescope: Evidence for Past Deceleration and Constraints on Dark Energy Evolution
    397 citations
    Easily the most important paper of 2004 to date. It further solidifies the case for dark energy. Heavily cited already for being relatively recent.

    Primordial Nucleosynthesis in Light of WMAP
    81 citations
    Not hugely cited to date, but one of the most important papers of 2003. It uses WMAP data to independently corroborate BBN elemental abundance predictions.

    Cosmological Results from High-z Supernovae
    332 citations
    This high z supernova data was crucial in ruling out possible systematic effects in low redshift data, bolstering the case for dark energy.

    Cosmological Parameters from Cosmic Background Imager Observations and Comparisons with BOOMERANG, DASI, and MAXIMA
    163 citations
    The CBI study, while rather insensitive compared to WMAP, was the first sensitive enough to detect the structures that gave rise to galactic clusters. It also provided important confirmation of prior studies.

    The Farthest Known Supernova: Support for an Accelerating Universe and a Glimpse of the Epoch of Deceleration
    289 citations
    One of the early, high z supernova observations that provided important evidence in favor of the accelerating universe hypothesis.

    A Flat Universe from High-Resolution Maps of the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation
    897 citations
    These are the COBE results, the first definitive study supporting the LCDM model. WMAP later confirmed these findings to high precision.

    A Fundamental Relation Between Supermassive Black Holes and Their Host Galaxies
    515 citations
    Among the most startling finds in the past ten years, IMO. It immediately attracted a huge amount of interest.

    Reverberation Measurements for 17 Quasars and the Size-Mass-Luminosity Relations in Active Galactic Nuclei
    284 citations
    This paper relates an important discovery regarding the luminosity function of AGN's.

    Measurements of Omega and Lambda from 42 High-Redshift Supernovae
    2144 citations
    This is the original Perlmutter paper. One of the most astonishing finds of the 20th century. No doubt already mentioned, but worth mentioning again.

    The Cosmic Baryon Budget
    437 citations
    This important paper was among the early results that began severly constraining the permissible fraction of baryonic matter in the universe. WMAP further confirmed this finding.

    The Four-Year COBE Normalization and Large-Scale Structure
    364 citations
    The preliminary COBE results. It was quite exciting at the time.

    The Structure of Cold Dark Matter Halos
    924 citations
    A companion paper to the one referenced by Hellfire, also a good read.

    Galaxy Harassment and the Evolution of Clusters of Galaxies
    279 citations
    Not quite as well known as the NFW papers, but another important paper on the evolution of galactic clusters.

    It took awhile to compile this, sorry for any redundancies.
  13. Aug 26, 2005 #12


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Galaxy Structure, Formation, and Evolution

    Thanks Phobos, guess I'll have to make this count, huh? :wink:

    Eggen, Lynden-Bell, & Sandage 1962

    - One of the pioneering papers in the theory of galaxy formation, ELS62 tries to explain the observed properties of stars in terms of a rapidly collapsing galaxy model. Although not identical to currently favored theories in the details, the basic idea sticks with us and has inspired a great deal of theoretical interest on the topic. A combination of this rapid collapse and the hierarchical build-up of CDM seems to provide a good fit to most of the data.

    Schwarzschild 1979

    - In addition to the formation mechanism, we're also interested in what constitutes a stable configuration for a post-collapse galaxy. Making use of some very primitive (by modern standards) computational resources, Martin Schwarzschild constructed a model of a triaxial galaxy, solving for the orbits of stars as well as the overall distribution function in position-momentum space. Many of the fundamentals of this original model are used to this day, despite having much more powerful computers to work with.

    Oort 1932

    - One of the most debated quantities in modern astrophysics is the "Oort limit", which respresents the mean density of mass in the solar neighborhood. The reason this quantity is so important is that allows us to determine whether or not dark matter is significant contributor to the dynamics of the galactic disk. The answer is still unknown, but the methods of determining it are still very similar to that adopted by Jan Oort in this 1932 paper.

    Sandage 1961

    - Don't bother trying to download this online (at least from ADS) because it's not available; in fact, it's not even a paper. The Hubble Atlas is old-fashioned astronomy at its best, demonstrating in both pictures in text how astronomer's classify galaxies. The classification scheme was originally designed by Edwin Hubble himself and has since been extended to include types that had not been in his original sample. An easy read, I would recommend this book even for the layman.

    Toomre & Toomre 1972

    - A good follow-up to the Hubble Atlas, this 1972 paper demonstrates that the simulated world can be almost as pretty as the real one. The cause of the curious "bridges" and "tails" that seemed to extend from many galaxies (often classified as peculiar galaxies) had long been a subject of debate, but with the release of this paper, the issue was practically settled overnight. Using a simple N-body code, TT72 demonstrated that two galaxies on a parabolic collision course will interact in such a way as to produce extended streams of stars gas very similar to those observed in peculiar galaxies. Perhaps even more importantly, the paper suggests for the first time (look carefully on page 662) that elliptical galaxies are actually the remnants of mergers. To this day, the origins of morphology have not been completely settled, but that off-hand suggestion has morphed into the leading theory of elliptical galaxy formation.
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2005
  14. Dec 19, 2007 #13


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

  15. Jan 7, 2009 #14
    On the Gravitational Field of a Mass Point According to Einstein’s Theory
    K. Schwarzschild, Sitzungsber.Preuss.Akad.Wiss.Berlin (Math.Phys.) 1916 (1916) 189-196

    Full Text

    On a Stationary System with Spherical Symmetry Consisting of Many Gravitating Masses.
    A. Einstein, Annals of Mathematics Vol 40. No. 4 Oct 1939

    First Page
  16. Jul 1, 2010 #15
    A Relation Between Distance and Radial Velocity Among Extra-Galactic Nebulae
    Edwin Hubble, P.N.A.S., March 15, 1929 vol. 15 no. 3 168-173

    Acrobat pdf document

    While the Big Bang may have started 13.5 billion years ago, recognition of the Big Bang arguably started here.
  17. Dec 26, 2010 #16
    In general, I would suggest to people new in a field to go through a review paper, like the ones published in ARAA (Annual Reviews in Astronomy and Astrophysics), which repeat the same topics every few years, whenever appropriate. Authors of such papers put their contributions on astro-ph most of the time!
  18. Aug 11, 2011 #17
    does anybody understands this paper? how does he derive that velocity is prpotional linearly to the distanse of the nebulae?
  19. Nov 28, 2012 #18
    His results are purely observational. The velocities can be measured by measuring how redshifted nebulae spectra are, while distance estimation is a little bit more sophisticated. You want a source with known luminosity, only then you can measure how far it is. A supernova explosion is one such a tracer, and Cepheid stars are another (but you have to measure the period of the star first).

    Also, since I'm replying to a very old question and feel guilty about it, can anybody recommend me a classical paper on jet formation?
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?
Draft saved Draft deleted

Similar Discussions: Classic Papers in Astronomy and Cosmology
  1. Astronomy & Cosmology (Replies: 2)