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.

Current Graduate Students:

Erin Cox

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)

In The News

  • Illinois astronomers, Leslie Looney, Robert Harris, and Dominique Segura-Cox, were part of the team that captured these beautiful images of a multiple stellar system caught in the act of forming.

  • Using new images that show unprecedented detail, scientists have found that material rotating around a very young protostar probably has dragged in and twisted magnetic fields from the surrounding area. Illinois astronomers Leslie Looney and Erin Cox lead the team studying the protostar.