Best practices

During the project

When you begin a new project you should generally use the most recent MESA release. Unless you encounter bugs that negatively impact your work, stick with that version throughout the project. If you’re starting from a set of input files that were designed for an older version, we suggest you invest some time porting it to the latest version, as if you run into any issues this will make it much easier for the community to assist you.

Before modifying any source code in the main MESA directory, check if these changes cannot be applied locally in your work folder using the hooks provided by MESA. If you have a use case that cannot be completed with the provided set of hooks, you can always contact us to request a new one.

The MESA test suite (star/test_suite and binary/test_suite) is a valuable source of examples and a good first stop when setting up a new problem with MESA. Looking at the test suite inlists is a quick way to familiarize yourself with the set of options relevant to your problem. More information is available on how to use a test suite case as a starting point for your own work directory.

You should always perform some sort of convergence study to ensure that your results are not sensitive to the time or mass resolution of your models. Please note, and this is very important, that MESA defaults will generally NOT be optimal or even acceptable for your particular science cases. It is the user’s responsibility to ensure that the MESA options and controls they choose are appropriate for the physics they want to study. This will usually require appropriate testing and critical analysis of the models obtained.

Throughout your project, the best way to solicit community help and input is via a message to the mailing list.

In the paper

You should provide a clear statement of which version of MESA was used in the calculation. We also recommend noting which version of the MESA SDK was used to compile MESA.

Citing MESA

You should cite all of the available MESA instrument papers at the time of the MESA version being used, as MESA is sum of this work. Currently, that is:

Modules for Experiments in Stellar Astrophysics
\citep[MESA][]{Paxton2011, Paxton2013, Paxton2015, Paxton2018, Paxton2019}.

MESA critically rests on the hard work of many researchers who have generated the input microphysics data that underpins the eos, kap, net, and neu modules. We therefore encourage users to briefly summarize these, including appropriate citations.

The MESA EOS is a blend of the OPAL \citep{Rogers2002}, SCVH
\citep{Saumon1995}, FreeEOS \citep{Irwin2004}, HELM \citep{Timmes2000},
and PC \citep{Potekhin2010} EOSes.

Radiative opacities are primarily from OPAL \citep{Iglesias1993,
Iglesias1996}, with low-temperature data from \citet{Ferguson2005}
and the high-temperature, Compton-scattering dominated regime by
\citet{Buchler1976}.  Electron conduction opacities are from

Nuclear reaction rates are from JINA REACLIB \citep{Cyburt2010} plus
additional tabulated weak reaction rates \citet{Fuller1985, Oda1994,
Langanke2000}.  (For MESA versions before 11701): Screening is
included via the prescriptions of \citet{Salpeter1954, Dewitt1973,
Alastuey1978, Itoh1979}. (For MESA versions 11701 or later):
Screening is included via the prescription of \citet{Chugunov2007}.
Thermal neutrino loss rates are from \citet{Itoh1996}.

Note that this only summarizes the “default” capabilities, of the currently released version of MESA. If you are making use of other microphysics options, employing prescriptions such as wind mass loss rates, or using older versions of MESA, please consult the documentation for appropriate references.

In the the MESA binary module, by default:

Roche lobe radii in binary systems are computed using the fit of
\citet{Eggleton1983}.  Mass transfer rates in Roche lobe
overflowing binary systems are determined following the
prescription of \citet{Ritter1988}.

A BibTex file with these references is available.

Citing included tools

If you are making use of an instrument that is provided in MESA (e.g., ADIPLS, GYRE, RSP, or STELLA), please make sure to include citations to the papers that describe it.

  • ADIPLS \citep{ChristensenDalsgaard2008}
  • GYRE \citep{Townsend2013, Townsend2018}
  • RSP \citep{Smolec2008}
  • STELLA \citep{Blinnikov2004, Baklanov2005, Blinnikov2006}

Citing the MESASDK

The MESASDK can be cited via its Zenodo link for MacOS and for Linux. Citations should also contain the version of the MESASDK used, individual Zenodo DOI’s are available for each MESASDK version.

A BibTex file with these references is available.

Citing MESA Zenodo community contributions

If you are making use of material that has been shared by the MESA Zenodo community, please make sure to include citations to the Zenodo repository that you leveraged and the science article(s) that describe the capability.

At the end of the project

You should make all information needed for others to recreate your MESA results publicly available. This includes your inlists and run_star_extras/run_binary_extras, the MESA version and the MESA SDK version (or compiler version for non-SDK builds), as well as any modifications to MESA that you may have made.

We recommend using Zenodo for this purpose. Zenodo assigns digital object identifiers (DOIs) for each entry, providing an immutable way to reference an upload in a publication. The service is also backed by the CERN data infrastructure, ensuring the safety of data and its long-term availability. As Zenodo allows uploads of up to 50GB, this gives the possibility to not only share the input files, but also your simulation data products.


Beware that once an entry is published in Zenodo it cannot be removed, but new versions can be included if amendments are needed. While setting up an upload in Zenodo, or testing the service, you can make use of the “sandbox” first. The “sandbox” allows you to see how a final entry would look before submitting the real thing to the main service.

We have a created a Zenodo community with which you can associate your Zenodo uploads. The MESA Marketplace will remain in use as an aggregator portal, and we request users to inform us of new uploads so that they are highlighted there as well.