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Welcome to the web page for Stellar Physics (AST 404)

Instructor: Falk Herwig
Office: Elliott 214
Office hours Winter 2014: Tuesday 1:00pm - 2:30pm

Lectures: 10:30-11:20am, Tuesday, Wednesday & Friday in El 161

Course Outline

This is an advanced undergraduate course in stellar physics, covering the following broad areas:

  • fluid dynamics, conservation laws and the structure of stars
  • energy transport in stars: radiation, conduction, convection
  • equation of state for stars
  • the stellar surface: atmospheres and spectra
  • the evolution of stars
  • nucleosynthesis in stars
  • rotation and magnetic fields
  • binary stars
  • nova and supernova
  • stellar pulsation and asteroseismology

This course has a computational component and both assignments and projects will require computational work that will be introduced in class.


The course text book will be Stellar Astrophysics by Francis LeBlanc.

This will be complemented by material that is covered in the following books:

  • Stardust From Meteorites : An Introduction To Presolar Grains by Maria Lugaro: Desribes evolution and nucleosynthesis and applications to the interpretation of isotopic signature seen in pre-solar grains.
  • Astrophysical Fluid Dynamics by C. J. Clarke and R. F. Carswell: I will use this book in particular in the first sessions.
  • Stars and Stellar Evolution by Klaas de Boer and Walter Seggewiss: This book is very new and the most up to date. It gives a broad and up to date introduction to most areas of stellar physics. If you want to buy a text for this course I recommend this one.
  • Stellar Structure and Evolution by R. Kippenhahn and A. Weigert: This is now already a classic book. Initially you may find it a bit more difficult, but after getting used to it this may become your favorite text.
  • Stellar Interiors - Physical Principles, Structure, and Evolution by Carl J. Hansen, Steven D. Kawaler, and Virginia Trimble: This is another standard text book on the subject with detailed and elaborate explanations.
  • Theory of Stellar Structure and Evolution by Dina Prialnik: You may find this book more accessible but it does not cover some important parts, as for example stellar atmospheres, binaries and rotation. I would recommend this as supplementary reading.
  • Cauldrons in the Cosmos by Claus E. Rolfs and William S. Rodney: This is your book if you are interested in Nuclear Astrophysics. It covers the nuclear production of the elements including the view of experimental nuclear physicists that measure the relevant nuclear rates.
  • Supernovae and Nucleosynthesis by David Arnett: This is a splendid book about the physics of element formation with a focus on massive stars.
  • Principles of stellar structure by Cox & Guili: This is a truly classic text book written at the time when or shortly after many of the major discoveries had been made. Certainly I advise to read a few chapters in this one.
  • The Physics of Stars by A. C. Phillips: You may like this book for a more physics oriented approach to the subject.

Course Notes, Lab module & Assignments

Online material for the course, including:

  • summary course notes
  • assignments
  • term project information
  • computer lab project

will be updated regularly.


The course will assessed according to the following three components:

  • Assignments including lab/term project: 35%
  • Mid-term: 20%
  • Final exam: 45%

The correspondence between letter and numerical grades will be following standard university practice:
Letter Grade      Numerical Grade  Grade Point Value 
 A+                90-100           9 
 A                 85-89            8 
 A-                80-84            7 
 B+                77-79            6 
 B                 73-76            5 
 B-                70-72            4 
 C+                65-69            3 
 C                 60-64            2 
 D                 50-59            1