While I was a Ph.D. student at UC Berkeley, I organized a student reading group on ‘classic’ papers in astronomy, astrophysics, and cosmology, focused mostly on cosmological structure formation and galaxy formation. These are the papers that we found particularly insightful and didactic. Disclaimer: while this list has high purity, it is nowhere near having high completeness!
Sachs & Wolfe 1967
Derivation of the Sachs-Wolfe effect.
Original treatment of halo bias and the peak-background split.
Bardeen, Bond, Kaiser, & Szalay 1986
Everything you want to know about Gaussian random fields, including mass functions, spatial clustering, and halo shapes. (not succinct)
Original treatment of redshift space distortions.
Cole & Kaiser 1989
How to use Press-Schechter formalism to constrain astrophysical processes, including quasars, unresolved backgrounds, and galaxy formation. (Lots of insight here.)
White, Efstathiou, & Frenk 1993
How galaxy clusters can constrain σ_8 and evidence for Ω_m ≠ 1.
Peacock & Dodds 1994
How to convert from a linear to a non-linear power spectrum, with fits.
Peacock & Dodds 1996
How to measure the linear power spectrum from observations (reversing the above paper).
Mo & White 1996
Comprehensive and didactic treatment of halo bias.
Seljak 2000 and Peacock & Smith 2000
Original treatments of the halo model.
Redshift-space distortions and the halo model.
Schulz & White 2006
Succinct treatment of the halo model and scale-dependent bias.
Tinker, Weinberg, & Zheng 2006
How to analyze redshift-space distortions in the context of the halo model.
Dark Matter Halo Formation
Press & Schechter 1974
Original ‘derivation’ of the halo mass function. Much is incorrect (see later papers), but this sets the stage.
Fillmore & Goldreich 1984
Analytic treatment of the formation of halos and their density profiles.
Bond, Cole, Efstathiou, & Kaiser 1991
First paper to extend/correct Press-Schechter to include halo formation histories.
Lacey & Cole 1993
An early ‘extended’ Press-Schechter model, focusing on halo mergers.
Dalal, White, Bond, & Shirokov 2008
Insightful and didactic treatment of halo assembly bias.
Robertson, Kravtsov, Tinker, & Zentner 2009
How the excursion set formalism fails.
Angulo & White 2010
The ‘full’ formation history of halos, starting with the first ones to collapse.
Intergalactic Medium and Reionization
Dave, Cen, Ostriker et al 2001
Theoretical analysis of baryons in the warm/hot intergalactic medium.
Fang & White 2004
Using the Lyman-alpha forest to constrain the early IGM.
Furlanetto, Oh, & Briggs 2006
Comprehensive review of 21 cm cosmology.
Comprehensive review of the physics of the IGM.
Eggen, Lynden-Bell, & Sandage 1962
Early evidence via stellar orbits for Milky Way formation via gravitational collapse.
On the origin of angular momentum of halos/galaxies.
Rees & Ostriker 1977
How gas cooling governs galaxy masses and sizes.
White & Rees 1978
Early monolithic collapse model for galaxy formation.
Sanders, Soifer, Elias, Madore, Matthews, Neugebauer, & Scoville 1988
First paper to point out the likely connection between ULIRGs and quasars.
Tegmark, Silk, Rees, Blanchard, Abel, & Palla 1997
Analytic halo formation histories with gas dynamics, with implications for the first galaxies.
Mo, Mao, & White 1998
Angular momentum build-up of disk galaxies.
Zaritsky, Zabludoff, & Gonzalez 2008
Overview of the ‘fundamental manifold’ on which galaxies lie, and how to think about galaxy structure.
Sunyaev & Zel’dovich 1972
Original treatment of the Sunyaev-Zel’dovich effect. (Amusing figures.)
White, Navarro, Evrard, & Frenk 1993
How the baryon content of galaxy clusters suggests that Ω_m ≠ 1.
Starts with Einstein’s equations, finishes with survey design, and everything in between. (Perhaps a perfect paper.)
Hu & Jain 2003
What weak lensing can do for you. Also a nice treatment of the halo model.
Johnston, Sheldon, Tasitsiomi et al 2007
How to use weak lensing to measure stacked galaxy cluster masses and density profiles.
Baryon Acoustic Oscillations
Bassett & Hlozek 2009
Overview of BAO physics, measurements, and prospects.
Cosmic Microwave Background
Komatsu, Dunkley, Nolta et al 2009
Overview of much of the physics that the CMB can constrain.
Bardeen, Steinhardt, & Turner 1983
Early overview of inflation.
Big Bang Nucleosynthesis
Yang, Turner, Schramm, Steigman, & Olive 1984
Overview of BBN physics, how to get cosmological constraints, and observations.
Dalal, Dore, Huterer, & Shirokov 2007
Addresses many of the issues surrounding primordial non-Gaussianity.