Leslie W Looney

 Leslie Looney

Contact Information

123 Astronomy Building, MC-221
1002 W. Green St.
Urbana, IL 61801
Director - Laboratory for Astronomical Imaging, Chair, Professor
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Research Description

My group studies the cutest stars - big and cuddly protostars only 10,000 to 100,000 years old, before they turn punky and begin to fuse hydrogen into helium in their core in about 1 million years. These stars are surrounded by envelopes of dust and gas that give us direct evidence of how stars form and how early planetary systems are going to form.  Lately, we have been most excited about 1) how circumstellar disks evolve from the earliest stages and what impact the disk has on the evolution of planets via dust grain growth, and 2) the polarization of light from the circumstellar disk which arises from three mechanisms, aligned dust grains via magnetic field, aligned dust grains from radiation, and/or scattering.   

The sources we study are usually deeply embedded in gas and dust, which means that they can only be observed at wavelengths longer than 10 microns.   Thus, our  group typically utilizes ALMA, SOFIA, and VLA observations to peer into stellar nurseries.

However, lately I am also considering variability of sources in LSST.

Current Graduate Students:

Frankie Encalada

Rachel Harrison

Past Graduate Students:

Shiya Wang (2008)

Yu-Shao "Jerry" Shiao (2008)

Woojin Kwon (2009)

Jonathan Seale (2010)

Hsin-Fang Chiang (2011)

I-Jen "Katherine" Lee (2013)

Ian Stephens (2013)

Dominique Segura-Cox (2017)

Erin Cox (2018)

In The News

  • Illinois Prof. Looney was among the science team that released high resolution images of hundred of young stars (and the disks that surround them) in Orion; the largest survey of young stars and their disks to date.

  • Congratulations to the Astronomy Class of 2019! Best wishes on your future endeavors--you make us proud! Twelve Astronomy and CS+Astronomy seniors graduated on May 12, 2019 at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

  • Illinois Prof Looney was among the science team that released a beautiful image of the dust inferred magnetic field in two galaxies. The Cigar Galaxy (M82), shown here, has its large-scale magnetic field following the bipolar outflows (red) generated by the intense nuclear starburst.

  • Illinois Profs Looney and Crutcher and grad student Erin Cox were among the science team that released a beautiful image of the dust inferred magnetic field in the Orion nebula using SOFIA HAWC+ observations. Prof.

  • Erin Cox successfully defended her PhD thesis on July 2, 2018. Congratulations, Dr. Cox!